Canadian shelters headed for Burma arrive in Thailand
The first Canadian aid shipment to help people in Burma cope with a devastating and deadly cyclone arrived in Thailand on Saturday morning, two weeks after the storm hit.
A military C-17 aircraft containing about 2,000 shelter kits — which include tarps, ropes, hammers, nails and other equipment to construct temporary homes — landed in Bangkok after a flight that began Wednesday at Canadian Forces Base Trenton in eastern Ontario.
The supplies will be transferred onto cargo flights into Burma over the next two days, under the supervision of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent.
The Canadian Red Cross said once the smaller shipments reach Rangoon the kits will be distributed by Red Cross volunteers on the ground.
The aid shipment is part of a $2-million Canadian commitment to the relief efforts in Burma.
"It's very rewarding to be able to bring this to people who really need it and hopefully save lives," said Maj. Jeremy Reynolds, a pilot for Canada's Armed Forces.
Despite the two million people in Burma without shelter, most in the low-lying Irrawaddy Delta region, the isolationist junta that controls the country continues to refuse entry to foreign aid workers.
The military regime says Cyclone Nargis left about 78,000 people dead, while the Red Cross says the number is probably 128,000, with many more deaths possible from disease and starvation unless help is provided quickly to survivors.
In an effort to showcase its relief efforts, the junta flew a group of diplomats to Irrawaddy on Saturday, diplomats and UN officials said. It is not clear if the diplomats will be allowed to see anything more than the stage-managed relief camp the junta is expected to put on display.
The diplomats were expected to return to Rangoon later Saturday.
Heavy rains have lashed the delta for the last two days, hampering relief operations. While some aid is getting to the disaster zone, rainy weather and washed-out roads are slowing vehicles.
Lack of clean water will be the "biggest killer" in the Irrawaddy Delta in the coming days, Thomas Gurtner, the head of operations for the International Red Cross, told the Associated Press in Geneva.