OTTAWA – A Foreign Affairs spokesman says the government is exploring response options to assist cyclone-ravaged Myanmar – but has not yet decided if it will deploy a specialized military emergency team.
Neil Hrab, an aide to minister Maxime Bernier, however, says if the Disaster Assistance Response Team is sent to the southeast Asian nation, also known as Burma, it can do so more quickly than in the past.
Hrab says that’s because Ottawa has secured a strategic airlift capability for the Canadian Forces by way of a new C-17 Globemaster.
Nearly 22,000 people are said to have perished, with more than 40,000 still missing in the wake of Cyclone Nargis. The UN World Food Program suggests one million people may have been left homeless.
Hrab says the federal government is working with partners to determine how best to meet humanitarian needs in the country.
He says that includes a potential range of activities, “including sending technical experts, deploying relief stocks and the use of Canadian Forces assets,” such as the DART. However, access first needs to be allowed by the military-led government.
“Lack of access makes an assessment very difficult,” Hrab said.
Hrab also points out the Conservative government announced on Monday that Canada was setting aside up to $2 million in humanitarian assistance.
DART is a self-contained emergency team designed to operate in the field for up to 40 days, and has 200 people ranging from infantry to medical personnel and engineers. The unit can produce up to 50, 000 litres of clean drinking water a day.
In the past, the team has been deployed to Sri Lanka after the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, to Turkey to aid earthquake victims, and to help hurricane survivors in Honduras.
No Canadians are reported among the dead and injured. A Foreign Affairs Department spokesman in Ottawa said consular officials were attempting to contact all 57 Canadians known to be in Myanmar. Most were registered as being in the Yangon area.
Electricity remained cut Tuesday for nearly all 6.5 million residents of Yangon, while water supply was restored in only a few areas. Some residents waited in lines for nine hours or more to buy gasoline to fuel generators and their cars.