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Relief efforts underway for Shan quake victims

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Local and international relief efforts are underway to help the victims of the earthquake that struck northeastern Burma on Thursday.

A house in Tachilek, Burma, where people are starting to salvage debris for rebuilding after the earthquake that struck on Thursday night, March 24, 2011. NGOs, international relief agencies and the Burmese government are starting to move into the remote area to provide aid and make damage assessments. Photo : Mizzima/Real NaingAccording to a report from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs issued on Friday, the local authorities have been providing basic relief to affected households and the Burmese government’s National Disaster Preparedness Central Committee has deployed search and rescue and relief teams.

The death toll from the 6.8 earthquake that struck Shan State on Thursday evening stands at 74 people, with 111 people injured. But much of the affected region of Burma is remote and the full scale of the devastation and human toll has yet to be fully assessed.

This is the third earthquake to hit Burma this year. Quakes of 6.4 and 5.4 magnitude struck on February 4 and March 10 respectively, but no serious damage or casualties were reported.  This latest quake comes in the wake of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan that left at least 27,000 dead or missing.

Access to some of the affected areas in Burma is difficult because of the terrain, poor roads and security restrictions. There have been reports of disruption of electricity, water supply and telecommunications in the affected areas. Key bridges have been reported damaged by the quake, according to sources who spoke with Mizzima.

UN agencies and local and foreign NGOs met in Rangoon on Friday morning to plan an emergency response.

As of Friday, UNICEF had dispatched field staff to carry out a need assessment survey. The organization plans to distribute health kits and water purification items.

World Vision International (WVI), an international NGO, has staff in Tachilek and Kengtung and is reported to have sent personnel to 20 villages in the Tar Lay and Mong Lin township areas where they are handing out food and water, following a request from the ruling State Peace and Development Council.  Further aid will be supplied following an assessment of the needs, according to the UN report.

The Myanmar Red Cross Society has dispatched 20 volunteers to collect information and offer basic assistance.

The UNHCR and the UNDP have expressed a willingness to help.

Last Updated ( Friday, 25 March 2011 19:43 )  

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