India sends naval relief ships to cyclone-hit Myanmar
Two Indian naval ships carrying emergency aid will set sail for Myanmar where nearly 4,000 people died of a devastating cyclone at the weekend, the ministry of external affairs said on Monday.
“Two naval ships from Port Blair with relief and medical supplies will sail immediately to Yangon, carrying food items, tents, blankets, clothing and medicines," it said in a statement.
Port Blair, capital of the Indian Ocean archipelago of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, is a major Indian naval base.
Tropical cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar late on Friday at the mouth of the Ayeyawaddy (Irrawaddy) river, about 220km south-west of former capital Yangon, before hitting the country’s economic hub.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Pratibha Patil also send their condolences and expressed “deep distress" at the devastation caused by the cyclone in Myanmar, the statement said.
“They also conveyed India’s readiness to provide immediate emergency relief assistance and to assist Myanmar in its rehabilitation efforts," the statement added.
The external affairs ministry said the offer was part of New Delhi’s “close and good neighbourly ties" with the secretive Asian nation—one of the poorest on the planet— which shares its borders with India’s north-east.
The Indian offer came before Myanmar’s state television increased the death toll from Nargis more than 10-fold, late on Monday. Once known as Burma, the country has been under military rule for decades.
The television said more than 2,100 people were missing and that tens of thousands more could have perished in other regions, where rescue workers had not yet been able to gauge the scale of the destruction.
The US is providing aid to the cyclone-ravaged country through its embassy in Yangon and is looking at what more it can do to help, the White House said on Monday.
The US embassy in Yangon has released some immediate aid that “will go through the World Food Program and other aide entities, so it doesn’t necessarily go directly through the government but we are in the process of assessing what more we can do," said spokesman Scott Stanzel.
The dollar amount was not immediately available. Myanmar had said earlier that nearly 4,000 people had been killed in the cyclone that tore into the impoverished Asian nation at the weekend, and that tens of thousands more could also be dead.