UN stands ready to assist after deadly cyclone batters Myanmar

Clean-up efforts in the wake of storm devatation. Photo: WFP/Hakan Tongul

5 May 2008 – The United Nations has offered its assistance to Myanmar authorities in responding to the deadly cyclone which struck the South-East Asian nation on Friday, leaving death and widespread devastation in its wake.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Cyclone Nargis made landfall in the Irrawaddy delta region, some 250 kilometres southwest of Yangon around 4 pm on 2 May.

With winds of over 190 kilometres per hour, the storm hit Yangon later that same night, tearing down trees and power lines and causing widespread flooding.

Thousands have reportedly been killed. In addition, “the numbers in need of assistance are expected to be sizeable,” OCHA said.

Buildings have been badly damaged throughout Yangon, and a significant number of people have been left without shelter. Electricity is unlikely to be restored for several days and water supplies are expected to be a major problem. Many roads remain impassable and the airport has been closed until further notice.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today he is “very much alarmed” by the news coming out of Myanmar’s Foreign Ministry that casualties have risen to over 10,000. Speaking to reporters in New York, he added that lack of communications has made it difficult to ascertain the extent of the casualties and damage.

A UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team has been organized and is on stand-by to assist the Government in responding to humanitarian needs, according to a statement issued by the UN on Sunday.

“The United Nations is also prepared to extend other necessary assistance and to mobilize international aid in support of the Government, if needed,” the statement added.

The most immediate needs include food, plastic sheeting, water purification tablets, cooking sets, mosquito nets and emergency health kits.

In addition, Mr. Ban’s chief of staff today discussed possible UN assistance with Myanmar’s Ambassador to the world body, who stressed the need for the immediate delivery of supplies.

The two conferred on communications and coordination in providing assistance as well as the possibility of the release of funds from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).


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