The U.S. military has flown nearly 100 tons of humanitarian relief supplies into Burma to assist its cyclone-stricken people, a senior Pentagon official said here today.
Today, five more plane loads of relief supplies were delivered by U.S. military aircraft as part of Joint Task Force Caring Response, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters.
That makes for a total of about 98 tons of U.S. military-delivered supplies to Burma, including water, food, blankets and more, Whitman said.
"We continue to offer our assistance," Whitman said. "At this time, at this moment, at this hour, there has not been additional clearance granted for us to deliver any more supplies. But, as we know, these things have been executed on almost a day-to-day basis with respect to the clearance process."
Cyclone Nargis struck Burma on May 2. The storm killed as many as 30,000 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless, according to news reports. Thousands of Burmese are reported missing more than week after the storm struck.
The military committee, known as a junta, that rules Burma has been reluctant to grant landing rights to U.S. aircraft to assist in humanitarian-relief efforts there.
Whitman said he believes that nongovernmental relief agencies in Burma are distributing the U.S.-provided supplies.
"There are any number of other aid agencies that are helping with the distribution of humanitarian-relief supplies" in Burma, he said.
Meanwhile, Whitman said, a number of U.S. military aircraft and additional supplies are positioned at Utapao, Thailand.
"So, they are available, and we do have relief supplies to put aboard them should we get permission later today to fly more flights in tomorrow," Whitman said.
Delivery of food and water appear to be the main priorities for relief agencies in Burma at the moment, Whitman said.
In addition, helicopters are available aboard the USS Essex and other U.S. Navy ships in the Bay of Bengal near Burma, Whitman said.
"These are assets that would only be used once permission has been granted by the Burmese government," he said.
News reports cite the approach of another storm that may strike Burma. "We're watching it," Whitman said.
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service