Supplies Turned Over To Officials For Distribution
The first US military
plane loaded with relief supplies arrived in Burma Monday as
members of Joint Task Force Caring Response prepared to dispatch
two more relief flights to the cyclone-stricken region.
A C-130 Hercules transport aircraft loaded with emergency relief
supplies arrived yesterday at Rangoon International Airport in
Burma, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said. After delivering its
load -- 8,300 bottles of water, two pallets of mosquito nets and a
pallet of blankets -- to Burmese military officials for
distribution, the plane returned to Utapao Thai Royal Navy air base
Navy Adm. Timothy J. Keating, the US Pacific Command chief,
accompanied the C-130 shipment to Rangoon. "He was greeted by a
Burmese naval officer who thanked him for the assistance," Whitman
said. Keating returned to Thailand with the flight crew.
The delivery was the first of three planned flights in support
of the US Agency for International Development's Office of Foreign
Disaster Relief, approved by the military junta that has ruled
Burma for 19 years. Tuesday's flights will carry food and water,
the two greatest needs, into the cyclone-ravaged Irrawaddy River
delta. Those deliveries, like the first, will be turned over to the
Burmese officials for distribution, Whitman said.
Marine Lt. Gen. John F. Goodman, commander of Marine Forces
Pacific, is coordinating the US military response as commander of
Joint Task Force Caring Response.
US State Department officials are working with the Burmese
government to allow more aid into the country, Whitman said. State
Department officials said today that their personnel in Burma and
Thailand are working with other nations to find ways to get more
aid into Burma quickly.
"The goal of the United States government is to try to get as
much assistance as we can to the Burmese people," Whitman said.
The USS Essex
Expeditionary Strike Group will arrive in international waters off
Burma tomorrow and be ready to lend a hand if allowed by Burmese
The group includes USS Essex, USS Juneau and USS Harpers Ferry,
and is equipped with 23 helicopters, three landing craft air
cushions, two landing craft units, and 1,800 Marines.
Additional US military assets are on standby, ready to respond
if the Burmese junta permits. The Marine Corps has four KC-130J
aircraft in Bangkok, and the Air Force has six C-130s in Utapao and
Korat, Thailand. In addition, the 36th Contingency Support Group,
based in Guam, is preparing to provide a water purification unit
and two airfield opening and operating teams to the region.
These assets already were in the region for Cobra Gold 2008, a
US-Thai humanitarian- and civil-assistance exercise, when Cyclone
Nargis hit May 2. This year's Cobra Gold, the 27th annual exercise,
was slated to run May 8 to 21, officials said.
Nine days after the cyclone, Burmese officials estimate the
death toll at 31,938, with another 29,770 missing. United Nations
officials put the toll between 62,000 and 100,000. The UN also said
about two million people may be refugees.
(Aero-News thanks Jim Garamone and Donna Miles, of American
Forces Press Service)