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First UK Aid Flight Off To Burma, More On Standby

Department For International Development (UK)

First UK aid flight leaves for Burma

The UK's first aid flight for Burma is leaving for Rangoon today, announced Secretary of State for International Development, Douglas Alexander. The flight contains plastic sheets, which will provide desperately needed shelter for over 9,000 families affected by Cyclone Nargis.

Four more planeloads of aid are on standby. The UK's emergency operations team is working in Rangoon with the UN and Aid agencies to identify what and where the greatest needs are, and to oversee the UK's assistance into the country.

Douglas Alexander said:

"The situation inside Burma is becoming evermore desperate for the hundreds of thousands of people affected by this disaster.

"There is now the very real danger of a second tragedy developing on the back of the first - the risk of water-borne infections grows with every day of inaction by the Burmese authorities.

"The UK is working hard at a diplomatic level to secure international and regional agreement in how best to get aid into Burma, but we are also sending humanitarian aid. Our first flight is scheduled to leave Dubai tonight and has been granted permission to land in Rangoon. We are ready to do much more and we continue to urge the active cooperation of the Burmese authorities."

Douglas Alexander has called for an emergency meeting of EU Development Ministers and has also asked the Ministry of Defence and the Royal Navy to direct HMS Westminster to international waters of Burma.

Notes to Editors

1. Cyclone Nargis developed in the Bay of Bengal during the week 28 April - 2 May. It made landfall on 2 May as a Category 3 Cyclone in the Iriwaddy Delta region, approximately 250 kilometres south west of Rangoon. The storm then tracked inland, directly hitting the capital itself late the same night. Current estimates of dead and missing are over 200,000, with more than 1.5 million people in need of emergency assistance.

2. The first UK aid flight will leave for Burma from DFID's Dubai warehouse later today. The plastic sheeting onboard will be delivered to the UN. Library footage of DFID staff working in our UK warehouse in Kemble, Gloucestershire is available at: http://www.linxproductions.com/videos/preview/27

3. Daily updates on the response to Cyclone Nargis are posted on the DFID website http://www.dfid.gov.uk

4. The UK team received visas from the Burmese Embassy on Thursday 8 May and took the first available flight to the region.

5. HMS Westminster will arrive off the coast of Burma in the next two days. We do not envisage that it will play a major role in the aid effort. For further information please visit the Dfid website http://www.dfid.gov.uk

COI ref 160766P

ENDS

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