US concerned about aid reaching Myanmar

May 12, 2008 10:16:34 AM PDT
The United States has "massive concern" about whether its aid for Myanmar's cyclone victims will get to those suffering from disease and a lack of food and water, the director of the U.S. office of foreign disaster assistance said Monday. Ky Luu told reporters that the United States plans to rely on aid groups to track supplies flown into the country Monday on a U.S. military C-130 cargo plane. But U.S. officials were not allowed to accompany the supplies to the areas hardest hit; and Luu acknowledged that it is difficult to determine what will happen to the aid in the tightly controlled, military-led country.

Asked about the lack of U.S. control over the distribution of the supplies, Luu said: "What we are trying to do here is react, on the one hand, to the immediate humanitarian imperative; on the other hand, we do want to make sure to be able to verify and track these commodities."

Luu urged Myanmar to allow U.S. disaster experts into the country to make sure the aid gets to the people in need. Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman said the plane that landed Monday carried water, mosquito nets and blankets and that Myanmar has given permission for two more C-130 flights.

The local government is taking possession of the goods and working to distribute them, Whitman said. He said the U.S. is still talking to the Myanmar junta about the possibility of U.S. distribution of aid inside the country.

Luu said Myanmar's allowing U.S. flights of aid is a good start, but the supplies represent only a small fraction of what the U.S. and others are prepared to give.

The Navy's USS Essex expeditionary strike group is expected to arrive off Myanmar on Tuesday. It was in the region to participate in a multinational military exercise in the Gulf of Thailand.

The White House said the United States was prepared to provide an additional $13 million in food and logistical assistance to the United Nations' world food program for distribution to cyclone victims, bringing overall U.S. aid to $16.25 million.

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AP writers Pauline Jelinek and Matthew Lee contributed to this report.

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