U.S. to send aid to flood-hit Myanmar: Kerry

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 05, 2015 3:38 AM

By Aung Hla Tun and David Brunnstrom

YANGON/KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - The United States will announce an aid package for Myanmar to help the Southeast Asian country provide relief for the hundreds of thousands of people affected by floods, Secretary of State John Kerry said on Wednesday.

The Myanmar government appealed for international aid to bolster relief efforts on Monday. Speaking in Kuala Lumpur, Kerry said that the U.S. embassy in Yangon was working closely with Myanmar officials to determine the priorities for the aid.

"We express our hopes that the impact of this can obviously be dealt with minimal further loss of life and disruption," Kerry told a meeting with of Southeast Asian foreign ministers he co-chaired with Myanmar's foreign minister Wunna Maung Lwin.

More than 250,000 people have been affected and 69 killed by flooding that was triggered last week by monsoon rains, according to the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement.

The Myanma Ahlin newspaper, which carried the ministry's statement, also reported that water had risen above spillways at 40 dams across the country.

Myanmar's call for international relief marked a major change from 2008 when the then-military government shunned most outside help in the wake of Cyclone Nargis, which resulted 130,000 deaths.

While relief workers were still struggling to reach some of the hardest hit and remote areas of the country, the government was taking precautions in others, issuing a flood warning for people living in the Ayeyarwady delta region in Myanmar's southwest.

Flood waters from the north of the country are expected to flow into the area, pushing river levels dangerously high.

According to the Global New Light of Myanmar, evacuations in Ayeyarwady of elderly citizens, women and children were underway.

The region is Myanmar's major rice producing area and the United Nations has raised concerns that the country's food security could be impacted.

According to the Myanma Ahlin, over 1.1 million acres (4,451 sq km) of farmland, mostly rice paddies, have been flooded. Over 65,000 acres have been destroyed.

Japan, through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), said that it would provide blankets, sleeping mattresses and plastic sheets following the government's appeal for help.

The Chinese embassy in Yangon has also been distributing relief supplies this week.

(Writing by Timothy McLaughlin; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)