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Plea for Burma victims; Minister in cyclone talks.

Byline: By BARRY GIBSON News Reporter

DEWSBURY'S MP has travelled to Asia to urge more help for victims of the Burmese cyclone.

International Development Minister Shahid Malik met Thailand's Prime Minister, Samak Sundaravej, and representatives of India, Japan and Indonesia to discuss the crisis.

Burma's ruling military regime is blocking most foreign aid to the victims of Cyclone Nargis, which killed 78,000 people and made hundreds of thousands homeless.

Mr Malik said: "Unless there is a massive increase in humanitarian aid and workers many thousands of lives will be lost needlessly. That would be unforgivable.

"In previous disasters, such as the Pakistan earthquake and the tsunami, governments welcomed foreign aid and workers with open arms.

"I find it profoundly perverse that the Burmese regime is acting as a bottleneck to humanitarian assistance that would save the lives of tens of thousands of its own people.

"It is nothing short of inhuman." Mr Malik said Burma did not have the capacity to deal with the disaster.

He added: "There is no heavy lifting equipment at Rangoon airport in Burma, so it is all being done by hand.

"There are only five helicopters and trucks can only take five tonnes at a time.

"The roads to the worst affected areas are flooded and are near-impossible to pass without boats."

Mr Malik said Britain's Department for International Development had flown in boats and shelter equipment for tens of thousands of people.

It was now sending heavy lifting gear to speed up aid distribution from Rangoon airport.


MEETING: Shahid Malik (above) and Thailand's PM Samak Sundaravej; RELIEF: Some of the help being sent to help the Burma cyclone victims
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Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:May 24, 2008
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