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U.S. relief ships will move away from Myanmar

U.S. Navy ships laden with relief supplies will steam away from Myanmar's coast today, their helicopters barred by the ruling junta even though millions of cyclone survivors need food, shelter or medical care.

More than a month after the storm, many people in stricken areas of Myanmar, also known as Burma, still have received no aid at all and the military regime continued to impose constraints on international rescue efforts, humanitarian groups said Wednesday.

“I am both saddened and frustrated to know that we have been in a position to help ease the suffering of hundreds of thousands of people and help mitigate further loss of life, but have been unable to do so because of the unrelenting position of the Burma military junta,” said Adm. Timothy Keating, head of the U.S. Pacific Command.

The USS Essex and three other amphibious assault ships, which have been in international waters off Myanmar since May 13, will continue with their previously scheduled missions, Keating said in a statement.

But Keating added that “should the Burmese rulers have a change of heart and request our full assistance for their suffering people, we are prepared to help.”

He said the U.S. had made “at least 15 attempts” to persuade the junta to allow the ships to deliver aid.

The junta also refused help from French and British warships.

Some 1.3 million survivors have been reached with assistance, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.

But U.N. officials estimated 1.1 million more still needed help.

The government says 78,000 people were killed and 56,000 are missing.