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UN begins food distribution in Myanmar

world Updated: May 07, 2008 02:32 IST

AP
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The UN's World Food Programme on Tuesday said it has reached the first of an estimated 1 million people left homeless by the devastating cyclone that ravaged the coast of Myanmar.

It added, however, that many coastal areas remained cut off from food supplies because of flooding and road damage.

"WFP food assistance has now begun to reach persons who are without shelter or food resources in and around Yangon," the country's largest city, Chris Kaye, the agency's director for Myanmar, said in a statement.

He added that additional truckloads of food would be dispatched on Wednesday to Labutta township, the area hardest hit by the cyclone that struck at the weekend.

The death toll in the country, which is also known as Burma, rose above 22,000 on Tuesday, with more than 41,000 others missing, state radio reported.

Travel and visa obstacles hampered aid deliveries, officials said, but a green light from Myanmar to accept supplies started the global relief effort rolling three days after the storm.

"This assistance is on its way," said United Nations relief spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs, but she said UN workers planning to assess needs are still awaiting their visas to enter the country.

The food agency said its assessment teams were reporting tremendous storm damage to homes and shelter in villages in the rice-growing areas on Myanmar's coast.