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Burma Denies Forcing Cyclone Victims from Shelters


Burma's military government denies forcing survivors of Cyclone Nargis out of emergency shelters and back to their devastated villages.

An editorial in the state New Light of Myanmar newspaper Saturday blames foreign media for, what it calls, "tarnishing the image of the nation."

The official paper said victims are being allowed to return to their homes voluntarily, but only if they have enough food, water and shelter to survive.

Amnesty International says the military has been evicting some cyclone survivors from their temporary shelters and forcing them back to their homes, even if they were destroyed. It also has reported instances of the military forcing people to work for food aid.

An official with the U.S. Agency for International Development (Ky Luu) said Thursday that if evictions are taking place, people may be forced back into areas where international disaster experts may not be able to work.

Burma's ruling military government has blocked many direct relief efforts by foreign organizations and governments to the hard-hit Irrawaddy River delta following the cyclone early last month that killed more than 78,000 people and left 56,000 missing.

Five helicopters working on cyclone relief for the United Nations arrived Saturday in Burma's main city, Rangoon. They joined another U.N. helicopter that arrived last Monday to carry supplies to survivors.

The United States has offered Burma 22 helicopters, and says it can get aid to a majority of hungry and homeless survivors in a matter of days.

U.S. military ships carrying relief supplies and helicopters have moved away from the Burmese coast, but U.S. military officials say they can return to help with relief if asked.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.