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U.N. Resumes Aid to Myanmar Despite Junta Actions

BY Admin  May 9, 2008 at 12:30 PM EST

Man walking in Bogalay, Myanmar; AP Photo

The shipments included 38 tons of high-energy biscuits — enough to feed 95,000 people — that arrived via two flights from Bangladesh and the United Arab Emirates.

The United Nations intended to distribute the food to the flooded Irrawaddy delta, but the government confiscated the supplies instead, causing the U.N. agency to temporarily suspend its shipments.

The agency then decided to continue providing supplies while it negotiated with the government on their delivery.

“The World Food Programme has decided to send in two relief flights as planned tomorrow, while discussions continue with the government of Myanmar on the distribution of the food that was flown in today, and not released to WFP,” Nancy E. Roman, WFP’s communications and public policy director, said in a statement, according to Reuters.

Myanmar’s government said Friday that it was grateful to the international community for its assistance, which has included 11 chartered plans loaded with supplies, but the best way to help was to send supplies, not personnel, reported the AP.

“Myanmar is not in a position to receive rescue and information teams from foreign countries at the moment,” a Foreign Ministry statement published in state-run newspapers said, cited Reuters. “But at present Myanmar is giving priority to receiving relief aid and distributing them to the storm-hit regions with its own resources.”

The Category 3 cyclone that hit Myanmar on Saturday swamped low-lying areas with salty water, ripped roofs off buildings and uprooted trees, blocking roads. At least 62,000 people are dead or missing, according to state media outlets.

Anders Ladekarl, head of the Danish Red Cross, said many of the dead are not buried but still floating in the water and starting to rot.

About 20,000 body bags were being sent so volunteers from the Myanmar chapter of the Red Cross could start collecting the bodies, he said, according to the AP.

The salt water that flooded areas is ruining rice fields, grain stores and wells. The United Nations estimates that at least 1.5 million people — out of a population of 53 million — are “severely affected” and in need of food and shelter, Reuters reported.