U.N. steps up delivery of aid in battered Myanmar delta

U.N. helicopters loaded with relief supplies reached areas of Myanmar's Irrawaddy delta Monday that have been cut off from regular aid since a devastating cyclone five weeks ago, an official said.

Four of the five aircraft that arrived over the weekend got to work shuttling emergency supplies like rice and water purification systems to villages around the hardest-hit towns of Bogale and Labutta, said Paul Risley, a U.N. World Food Program spokesman.

Four flights flew Monday to seven locations in the delta and six more sites were expected to be reached today, he said.

U.N. officials and aid groups have criticized Myanmar's military regime for restricting access to the delta, saying it has prevented enough food, water and shelter from reaching desperate survivors.

Foreign relief workers still face hindrances in reaching cyclone victims, especially outside Yangon, the country's biggest city, aid groups say.

Until now, the U.N. had only one helicopter operating in Myanmar. It flew six trips last week, Risley said. Supplies were mainly being delivered by boats that took several hours to navigate short distances in the delta's network of waterways. Four more helicopters chartered by WFP are expected to fly to Myanmar this week.