LONDON - A British medical aid agency working in cyclone-devastated Myanmar is converting a luxury cruise ship into a floating hospital to reach survivors in remote areas.
Merlin is taking over the upmarket river cruiser after all its own boats were destroyed in Cyclone Nargis, which slammed into Myanmar at the weekend. Up to 100 000 people are feared dead and a million have been left homeless.
The Pandaw IV, which normally takes tourists on sight-seeing adventures along the Irrawaddy river, will be used to distribute clean water and medical supplies to survivors in the flooded Irrawaddy delta.
The coastal region was one of the worst affected areas as winds of 190km an hour hammered the country on Saturday, flattening towns and ripping up roads. Vast areas are under water, making it very difficult for aid agencies to reach people.
The 55-metre river cruiser is due to arrive in the delta town of Laputta on Sunday after picking up supplies near Yangon.
"This boat will be a real life-saver," Merlin's chief executive Carolyn Miller said. "Its shallow draft means Merlin will be able to reach far more people, far more quickly. This is vital, given the risk of disease outbreaks as every day passes."
The cruiser will also distribute 14 medical emergency kits, each of which provides basic healthcare for 10000 people for three months. - Reuters