Burma Allows One U.S. C-130 to Deliver Relief Supplies
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May. 9, 2008 Burmese officials have given permission for an Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft to deliver supplies to Rangoon on May 12, White House officials said here.
Gordon Johndroe, deputy White House press secretary, said the United States welcomes the Burmese government’s permission for the C-130 to deliver emergency relief supplies. “We hope this is the beginning of major U.S. assistance to the Burmese people,” he said.
The U.S. government will continue to work with the government of Burma on additional access for the U.S. Agency for International Development, nongovernmental organizations, and international aid agencies.
“We certainly appreciate the efforts that some countries such as China and others have made to talk to the junta about the need to get help in,” Johndroe said. “Clearly the junta has determined that the magnitude of this disaster requires additional assistance, and so we're pleased to be able to offer that.”
Press reports out of the Asian nation have put the death toll at more than 100,000 from Cyclone Nargis, which hit the Irrawaddy River delta May 5. Burmese officials said more than 25,000 have been confirmed dead, and another 45,000 people are missing.
American aircraft are standing by in neighboring Thailand once the Burmese junta gives permission for further aid flights. In addition, USS Essex Strike Group has deployed a dozen helicopters to a Royal Thai Air Force base.
“The helicopters and some relief supplies are being staged in Thailand because they could reach Burma in a matter of hours with relief supplies,” a Defense Department official said today.
The Essex group itself is steaming to be in position to provide further aid, if allowed, Navy officials said. The helicopters and amphibious landing craft are exceptionally useful in moving people and supplies to remote locations, inaccessible by road.
The Essex would deliver pre-positioned material. U.S. officials are working with nongovernmental organizations to determine what is most needed in the affected areas.
“We talked some this week, and the U.N. has talked some this week, about the most urgent needs, such as water purification devices as well as other issues to stop some of the water-borne diseases we're very concerned about,” Johndroe said. “We're working through those details right now to see what gets loaded on that airplane.
The Burmese government has not approved visas for a U.S. government assistance team.
“We're going to continue to work with the government of Burma to allow additional access for not only U.S. assistance but also assistance from (nongovernmental organizations) and other countries,” he said. “We hope this is the beginning of a long line of assistance from the United States to the people of Burma.”
The U.S. C-130 will fly out of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and will land in the former Burmese capital of Rangoon. Burmese officials will distribute any supplies the Hercules brings.