May 30, 2008 / 4:50 PM / 11 years ago

Boats needed to aid Myanmar cyclone victims-EU

BRUSSELS, May 30 (Reuters) - A critical shortage of flat-bottomed boats is hampering delivery of aid to cyclone survivors in Myanmar’s devastated Irrawaddy delta, the European Union executive said on Friday.

With many such boats destroyed when the May 2 disaster left 134,000 people dead or missing, little or no aid is reaching isolated rural communities, European Commission spokesman John Clancy said.

He said Commission experts were looking at the possibility of obtaining more boats in the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam.

"Relief assistance is getting to the main population centres; the picture is very different in isolated rural areas where little or no help has arrived," he said, citing reports from Commission experts who visited the disaster area.

The experts found that two hours south of the town of Laputta by boat, 90 percent of buildings had been swept away and survivors were still traumatised.

While some people were moving back into official camps or their villages, "there are many groups of people still huddled together on shoresides", Clancy said.

The European Commission has so far provided 17 million euros ($26.3 million) of relief assistance for the cyclone’s victims. This has gone towards food aid, water and sanitation, shelter, healthcare and food delivery.

The United Nations says fewer than one in two of the 2.4 million people affected by the cyclone have received any help either from the government or international or local aid groups.

Myanmar’s military government, which resisted allowing access to foreign aid workers, has said the rescue and relief effort is largely over and it is focused on reconstruction.

On Friday, it started evicting destitute families from government-run cyclone relief centres, apparently out of concern the "tented villages" might become permanent.

The evictions came a day after official media lashed out at offers of foreign aid, criticising demands for access to the delta and saying cyclone victims could "stand by themselves".

"The people from Irrawaddy can survive on self-reliance without chocolate bars donated by foreign countries," the Kyemon newspaper said. (Reporting by David Brunnstrom, editing by Myra MacDonald)

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