U.N. Rep Details Myanmar Devastation
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
It's not easy to reach people in Myanmar, and phone lines are not ideal. But we did speak earlier today with Marc Rapoport. He's with the United Nation's refugee agency, the UNHCR.
Mr. MARC RAPOPORT (Chief Representative, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees): We're now in Yangon and then the town has been devastated. What we hear from others who have made it to the lower parts of the delta just close to Yangon in the most affected area, the situation is even worse.
NORRIS: Have you had field reports from the hardest-hit areas?
Mr. RAPOPORT: What we are learning so far is that the percentage of damage is, you know, between 60 and 80 percent. Some villages have been wiped off. We rely to a great extent on the assessment of whoever has made it to the area, also the government.
KELEMEN: What can you tell us about how aid is actually getting into the country and how would it be distributed once it arrives?
Mr. RAPOPORT: Well, the government has officially welcomed assistance. For the time being, it's not yet clear what is the situation. So, what we have done so far, we have contributed some canned food, temporary shelters such as tents, plastic seating, and domestic items such as cooking sets or stoves. The needs, of course, are immense.
KELEMEN: Mr. Rapoport, do you intend to try to get to the hardest-hit region any time soon?
Mr. RAPOPORT: Yes, we are trying to - to access those areas, but we are also relying on the other agencies, other UN agencies or Red Cross.
KELEMEN: Is the local government there up to this?
Mr. RAPOPORT: Well, so far, they say that they are and they have a national committee that was established, and I trust that they do have logistics networks, we would see in the coming dates. Of course, this is a complex emergency and additional international support, from my point of view, would be needed, so we will do within our limited capacity.
KELEMEN: Now, we keep hearing about the death toll in the country. The estimated death toll keeps rising. It's now estimated to reach perhaps,50,000 people. What's that based on? How were you able to make these kinds of assessments?
Mr. RAPOPORT: Well, that death toll is the one provided by the government. In such situations, many people are missing, so it is a credible a death toll, but at this point in time, I mean, our thought isn't what to count, you know, exactly, but rather to assess needs and see what we can do within the current situation.
KELEMEN: All right. Mr. Rapoport, thank you very much.
Mr. RAPOPORT: Thank you.
KELEMEN: That was Marc Rapoport with the UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, speaking to us from Myanmar's largest city, Yangon.
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