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Thu, May 15, 2008

Pilot Describes First Myanmar Relief Flight

"Please Bring More; Please Bring More..."

The government of Myanmar apparently did nothing to warn or prepare its impoverished citizens for the May 2 landfall of Cyclone Nargis. Even when it became clear the death toll could reach six figures, the military junta reportedly stalled the arrival of foreign aid waiting offshore, while its leaders tried to figure out how they could enjoy exclusive credit for the charity.

It took nine days, but the first relief flights got through last weekend. The Air Force pilot who flew the first US relief flight to Burma says he and his crew were received warmly, but much more help is needed.

Captain Trevor Hall told reporters the aid recipients were ecstatic, but, "With very little broken English that we could make out, they were trying to say, 'Please bring more; please bring more.'"

Hall was the pilot in command of the C-130E Hercules transport that flew the first US emergency relief supplies into Rangoon International Airport. As ANN reported earlier this week, the plane held about 30,000 pounds of bottled water, mosquito nets and blankets, and was offloaded by hand in about two hours by the Myanmaran military, and moved on military trucks to a different staging area on the airport.

Other C-130s, sent from Greece and Malaysia, and other aircraft from India were also on the airport when the US flight landed. Additional relief flights from the US this week have included medical supplies, plastic sheeting, hygiene kits, some food, and first-aid material.

The Captain adds the Rangoon International Airport could easily accommodate one of the larger C-17 Globemaster III or KC-10 Extender transport jets each hour, but might have difficulties offloading them. "They didn't have, for instance, forklifts or any type of equipment that was really needed to offload our plane."

Hall said during the flight in, the devastation was apparent, but there was little relief activity visible on the nation's roads.

"Based on what I saw, I really don't think they have the infrastructure. ... It would take a lot of people and resources to distribute it the way it needs to be distributed," he said.

FMI: www.af.mil

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