Myanmar’s cyclone has claimed at least 70,000 casualties. The World Food Programme confirms that the country will need to import rice as well as other foodstuffs. Relief efforts were previously hampered by the reluctance of the regime to issue visas to aid workers as well as logistical problems in reaching those in need. The death toll is expected to rise.
VOICE OF ZAA NKWETA, PRODUCER/PRESENTER: Myanmar’s cyclone Nargis has claimed at least 70,000 casualties. Over 30,000 are missing with an estimated 2 million people displaced, according to the Asia Times. Myanmar’s isolationist regime finally gave clearance on Thursday for the first major international airlift of food for
survivors, after government delays that had frustrated aid agencies.
JOHN SPARROW, SPOKESMAN, INTERNATIONAL RED CROSS: This is an extremely important flight for us. It’s the first Red Cross/Red Crescent flight into Myanmar as a chartered flight. We are hoping that what we are doing today is the opening up of a Red Cross/Red Crescent pipeline.
NKWETA: The World Food Programme has now confirmed that Myanmar previously a rice exporter now faces a rice shortage.
ANTHONY BANBURY, REGIONAL DIRECTOR, WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME:
The rice harvest, in the area where the cyclone hit Myanmar, has been significantly impacted. A lot of domestic rice stores have been lost as a result of the cyclone, and so Myanmar which should be a rice exporter, may well need to import rice in the coming months. And of course that is a concern for us over the medium term. Our biggest concern though, is right now more than a million human beings in desperate need of assistance who aren’t getting it, and that’s got to be the focus of every minute, every hour right now.
NKWETA: Survivors in Myanmar’s Irrawaddy delta on Wednesday struggled to come to terms with the devastating horror of cyclone Nargis. They said no aid had arrived and spoke of entire families being killed by the cyclone.
WOMAN (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): People are starving. I heard that rice would be distributed here, so we came here. But we were told that we would not get rice.