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'Myanmar 'not ready' for foreign rescue teams'

Myanmar is "not ready" for foreign search and rescue teams after the deadly cyclone, the foreign ministry said in a state newspaper.

world Updated: May 09, 2008 08:33 IST

Myanmar is "not ready" for foreign search and rescue teams after the deadly cyclone, the foreign ministry said on Friday in a state newspaper, announcing that some aid workers had been deported.

A search and rescue team and media who arrived Wednesday on a flight from Qatar were deported the same day because Myanmar authorities believed the plane was only carryings supplies, not workers, the statement said.

"The relevant parties from the Myanmar side did not have prior information on the presence of such teams. The Myanmar side understood that only handing over of donated emergency provisions would take place," it said.

"Currently Myanmar has prioritised receiving emergency relief provisions and is making strenuous efforts to transport those provisions without delay by its own labours to the affected areas," it said.

"As such, Myanmar is not ready to receive search and rescue teams as well as media teams from foreign countries."

Myanmar will only accept donations of cash or emergency aid, the statement added, saying the country needed medical supplies, food, clothing, generators and shelters.

"The donors and the international community can be assured that Myanmar is doing its best ... to relieve the suffering of victims of Cyclone Nargis."

So far 11 charter flights carrying international aid have arrived in Yangon "with prior consent" from Myanmar authorities, the statement said.

"Myanmar authorities on their part have been making their best efforts to forward and distribute the donated provisions to the victims in a timely manner," it said.

Myanmar's military rulers face mounting pressure to open its doors to a major international relief effort to help more than a million survivors of the cyclone who are battling to stave off hunger and disease.

Officially, Myanmar says that nearly 23,000 people have died while more than 42,000 are missing. The United States has estimated the true toll at near 100,000.

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