Monday, May 12, 2008

Double disaster in Myanmar

The first U.S. plane loaded with relief supplies for desperate survivors of last week's cyclone in Myanmar landed this afternoon in Yangon, a hopeful sign after a week of incomprehensible delays. The military junta that rules the country, formerly known as Burma, has been blocking relief convoys from other countries and international organizations. The cyclone killed upwards of 100,000 people, despite an official government estimate of 28,000, but many more will die if aid does not reach them in the next few days. Tens of thousands are missing. The Britain-based international aid agency Oxfam said that nearly 1.5 million people were at risk without supplies of clean water and other aid. The Myanmar government is distrustful of foreigners, particularly from the West, according to the Associated Press. While officials there have finally started to accept shipments of aid, they have refused to permit representatives of aid organizations to enter the country to distribute supplies. The United States does not recognize the military junta, which lost an election in 1990 but refused to step aside and allow the opposition to run the country. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said today that Myanmar's response to the cyclone is "unacceptably slow." "Unless more aid gets into the country -- very quickly -- we face an outbreak of infectious diseases that could dwarf today's crisis," he said.

No comments: