The first US aircraft laden with relief supplies for Burmese cyclone survivors was finally allowed to take off from Vietman today, Reuters reports. Desperately needed international aid has largely been blocked by Burma's military junta. American officials hope the flight, carrying water, blankets, and mosquito nets, will be the first of several others now that today's help was approved. “This is Burma's hour of need and the need is urgent,” said an official.
Humanitarian agencies have warned of a second major catastrophe from starvation and disease if massive amounts of aid are not allowed in immediately. “I've never seen delays like this, never,” said one relief worker. “It's like they are taking a gun and shooting their own people." The UN estimates between 1.2 and 1.9 million people’s lives hang in the balance after Cyclone Nargis. The death toll has been estimated as high as 100,000, with some 22,000 missing.