Jul 7, 2008
YANGON, Myanmar (The Star-AP) — Disaster recovery and relief efforts are progressing well in Myanmar's cyclone-hit areas, despite logistical obstacles, a United Nations agency said Monday.
"The government has allocated a lot of money to relief and recovery," UNICEF spokeswoman Zafrin Chowdhury told The Associated Press, praising individual volunteers as well for their work.
Cyclone Nargis on May 2-3 cut a swath of destruction through the Irrawaddy delta and the country's largest city of Yangon, killing 84,537 people and leaving 53,836 missing.
Chowdhury said the logistics of providing relief were daunting.
"It's a very challenging situation. Access is quite difficult and most places in the delta are reachable only by boat," she said. Helicopters chartered on behalf of the U.N. World Food Program are also being used to airlift essential supplies where trucks cannot go.
"From our own observations, assistance has reached many of the remote areas," said Chowdhury.
The casualties from the storm were on a scale experienced by other countries from the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which largely spared Myanmar.
An Indonesian expert compared Myanmar's recovery effort favorably to the one made by his own country after the tsunami.
Heru Prasetyo of Tsunami Rehabilitation and Reconstruction for Aceh and Nias spoke at a meeting last week to review post-disaster response and recovery. It looked at the work and future duties of the Tripartite Core Group, comprising representatives of the government, U.N. agencies and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nation, ASEAN — of which Myanmar is a member.
"Judging the progress at the eighth week so far, the TCG efforts in managing response and preparing the recovery has placed Myanmar Nargis in much more advanced stage compared to the Aceh tsunami then," Heru said at the meeting.
But he warned that the work remaining "will be uphill and arduous."
An ASEAN-led Post-Nargis Joint Assessment Team that surveyed cyclone-hit parts of Myanmar issued preliminary findings late last month indicating that a feared wave of post-cyclone deaths and disease had not occurred.
The team's full report is supposed to be released at a meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers on July 20-21 in Singapore.