India sending two relief ships to cyclone-hit Myanmar


New Delhi : With the death toll in the Myanmar cyclone now standing at around 15,000, India has despatched two naval ships loaded with relief supplies to the cyclone-battered nation, with more relief assistance to be sent by air.

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Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar Friday night with winds of speed up to 190 kmph. It subsided after 10 hours Saturday morning, leaving behind large-scale devastation in several areas of Yangon and the Irrawady delta.

According to media reports, officials in Myanmar have put the death toll at around 15,000.

The military-run Myanmar government has declared a state of emergency. According to reports from Yangon, the foreign ministry had solicited aid from the international community through a meeting with diplomats based in the Myanmarese capital.

The Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Navtej Sarna said Monday that President Pratibha Patil, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee have sent individual messages to the Myanmar government “expressing their deep distress” at the devastation caused by the natural disaster.

“They have also conveyed India’s readiness to provide immediate emergency relief assistance and to assist Myanmar in its rehabilitation efforts,” said an MEA statement issued earlier Monday.

According to the MEA press note, two naval ships were being loaded with relief supplies, mainly food items, tents, blankets, clothing, medicines and meals-ready-to-eat (MRE) for immediate assistance. They will be despatched from Port Blair for Yangon.

India will send more relief material once a better assessment is made of the requirement by the Indian embassy in Yangon and the Myanmarese authorities. “We are also considering further immediate relief and medical supplies, including by air,” said Sarna.

All Indian nationals in Myanmar were reported to be safe, added an MEA official. “We had not been able to contact our embassy as all communication lines were down yesterday (Sunday). Contact was finally made today (Monday),” he said.