International aid starts to get through to cyclone victims

The international aid effort for hundreds of thousands of Burma’s cyclone victims finally gathered pace today.

India sent two planes and Burma authorised the United Nations to send its own air shipment.

But Burma’s slowness in issuing visas to aid workers remained a problem.

Aid workers on the ground have already begun distributing food and other supplies to victims.

The Indian flights follow two navy ships that left yesterday for Rangoon, Burma’s largest city, with similar supplies.

Indonesia, the country worst hit by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, said today it would soon send emergency aid worth €634,000. The tsunami killed more than 160,000 people in Indonesia’s Aceh province.

Two military planes carrying food, medicine, blankets and 55 relief workers will leave tomorrow.

“The tragedy has reminded the president of the December 2004 tsunami,” said a spokesman for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

“He decided Indonesia must help Burma,” said the spokesman.

UN staff in Bangkok are also waiting for approval visas so they can go to Burma and assess damage.

Other countries and organisations are also mounting their own relief efforts.

Many countries have announced donations of up to several million euro each, and the Red Cross and other aid organisations have been organising shipments to the country.

The national Red Cross staff and 18,000 volunteers have been handing out plastic sheets, drinking water, insecticide-treated bed nets and clothes.

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