Burma's military government has agreed to allow a single U.S. cargo plane to deliver relief supplies for victims of Saturday's killer cyclone. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, Burmese officials say the storm killed nearly 23,000 people and it is feared the number could go higher.
U.S. National Security Council Spokesman Gordon Johndroe welcomes Burma's decision to allow direct American assistance for the cyclone victims, nearly one week after the storm hit.
"We hope this is the beginning of major U.S. assistance to the Burmese people. We will continue to work with the government of Burma on additional access for USAID, non-governmental organizations as well as our other international partners to provide assistance to help the Burmese people during their time of need," he said.
While Johndroe says U.S. assistance is still limited by the Burmese government, he told reporters in Texas that one C-130 military cargo flight is better than no flights.
The U.S. military has several C-130s and a dozen helicopters in the region ready to fly supplies to Burma if allowed. The U.S. Navy is moving several ships closer to Burma including the USS Essex, which has medical facilities to treat up to 600 patients at a time.
Burmese authorities are still blocking a U.S. disaster response team from visiting areas hardest hit by the storm. Burma is refusing to give foreign aid workers visas, insisting that its own nationals distribute foreign relief supplies.
That delay has sparked international criticism of the country's rulers as relief officials estimate hundreds of thousands of people are waiting for assistance.
The U.N. World Food Program says it will resume aid flights Saturday even after Burmese authorities impounded two earlier shipments of food and equipment.
The United Nations is expected to issue an appeal for more than $100 million in emergency food and relief aid for Burma.