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Burma aid workers stuck in former capital

The Burmese junta is still dragging its heels on aid visas

Frustration was mounting among charities in Burma this week as Western aid workers who had finally gained access to the country found themselves confined to the former capital Rangoon.

The country’s military-led government has been refusing the majority of visa applications from Western aid workers, severely hampering rescue efforts following Cyclone Nargis, which hit Burma on 3 May (News last week).

However, despite some foreign nationals now being admitted to the country, they are being prevented from venturing to the areas worst hit by the cyclone and are instead being forced to train locals to deliver aid and supplies.

"It is very frustrating for our staff not to be able to leave Rangoon," said Médecins Sans Frontières water and sanitation advisor Michel Becks. "We can train local teams there but we can’t supervise them out in the field."

The death toll from the cyclone, which had winds reaching up to 190km/h and devastated an area the size of Wales, has risen to 77,738 according to official figures this week, with 55,917 still missing.
Up 2.5M people have been affected and aid workers are starting to identify cholera outbreaks.

ICE’s local representative in Bangkok Chitr Lilavivat told NCE: "The rescue operation is likely to continue slowly, many areas are still only reachable by helicopter."

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