Page last updated at 12:00 GMT, Sunday, 11 May 2008 13:00 UK

Scots group join Burma aid effort

People sitting on a downed tree in Burma's capital, Rangoon
The UN estimates that only a quarter of survivors have received aid so far

A Scottish-based aid worker is heading to Burma, after securing a rare visa from the authorities.

Mervyn Lee, from Mercy Corps, will fly out on Monday and said he hoped other colleagues would also be allowed entry.

Mr Lee said his first task would be to assess the situation there and liaise with the UN and local agencies.

He said he feared the situation was even worse than was being reported, with hundreds of thousands of people without water, food and shelter.

"We've been assessing the situation in Burma on a day-by-day basis since the news broke last Monday," he told BBC Scotland.

"As every day passes the scale of the tragedy became more obvious.

"There will be medical issues that will be increasingly serious."

We may have to consider working with other partners who we may not normally work with
Mervyn Lee

Mr Lee, who is European director of the Edinburgh-based charity, said he went to the Burmese embassy on Friday and was told the authorities were permitting a small number of people into the country.

He said he will arrive in Burma on Tuesday or Wednesday.

"Some agencies have got small numbers of personnel in so the first thing we'll do when we get there is contact partner agencies and find out what they've been able to do," he said.

"From that, we'll make an assessment of what part Mercy Corps can play.

"But we have to be innovative, we may have to make do with resources that are available in the country and we may have to consider working with other partners who we may not normally work with."

'Very difficult'

The UN estimates that only a quarter of survivors have received any aid so far.

Oxfam said the likely death toll of 100,000 could rise to 1.5 million without provision of clean water and sanitation.

Mr Lee said the priorities would be to provide water, food, shelter and medical support.

"Anecdotal evidence coming in over the past 24 hours suggests the situation is actually worse that is being reported," he said.

"It's very difficult to get accurate statistics in Burma.

"The number of dead is tens of thousands and they may well considerably exceed the numbers that have been talked about."


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