Burma: Church aid gets through to cyclone survivors

 Local Catholic Church partners of Caritas Internationalis have begun delivering aid to the people of Myanmar following the devastation caused by Cyclone Nagris. The storm hit the Irrawaddy Delta region on 3 May and the death toll is now at 100,000 people, with parts of the country still cut off and 1.5 million people affected. The death toll is expected to rise further. Local Church partners in Myanmar are providing food and other aid items to 10,000 people in Yangon and Irrawaddy. That figure is expected to rise to 40,000 people who are receiving support by tomorrow (Wednesday) . Provisional figures put the relief effort at US $1 million for the first month. The relief items are being sourced within country at present. Archbishop Charles Bo of Yangon said: "As a Church, we are reaching out to the victims with all the means at our disposal. At this hour of darkness, we are encouraged by the show of support by our friends from abroad. There are urgent needs for food, water and shelter. Thousands are in need of medical help." Church medical staff are also travelling to the worst affected areas to provide treatment to the survivors. Assessment teams have reported back. One staff member, speaking anonymously, said, "I was in Phyapon, far off down the Irrawaddy River. The bodies of human beings and cattle were still in the water. "We reached a destroyed village. We were the first outsiders they had seen. To my eyes, that have seen the Asia tsunami and the Kashmir earthquake, it was overwhelming. Nature unleashed an orgy of death. Women explained how the waves took their babes. As our boat moved along, the body of a small boy drifted past. "People have no drinking water or food or shelter. Children are eating coconut shells. Dead animals are everywhere. There is a terrible smell. There were many refugees, living in roofless churches and monasteries. Help has not reached them. We are doing what is possible. In the last two days, we have reached out to the starving people." Caritas Internationalis is coordinating its 162 members in responding to the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar and providing technical support to local Church partners. Caritas works before, during and after an emergency, supporting people to rebuild their own lives. * In response to the devastation and suffering caused by Cyclone Nargis, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor has written to the President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Myanmar (Burma) Most Rev Paul Zinghtung Grawng, Archbishop of Mandalay, to assure him of the prayerful support of the Bishops of England and Wales. The Cardinal wrote: I write to express on behalf of the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales our sincere sympathy for you as you face the devastation and destruction caused by the recent cyclone. We are united in faith and solidarity with our brother Bishops as you minister to the needs of the priests, religious and people in your pastoral care. Our Catholic Agency, CAFOD, is actively supporting the raising of funds to offer assistance to those who so desperately need help. You are all in our prayers.

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