"The United States has made an initial aid contribution, but we want to do a lot more," Bush said from the Oval Office. "We're prepared to move U.S. Navy assets to help find those who have lost their lives, to help find the missing, to help stabilize the situation. But in order to do so, the military junta must allow our disaster assessment teams into the country."
The first foreign aid to arrive in the country since Cyclone Nargis struck left Bangkok this afternoon, sent off by the Thai military in an elaborate ceremony. Nine tons of aid arrived in Yangon a few hours later. It is, however, just a sliver of what victims need.
The World Food Program, which now has 800 tons of food in the region, announced it began to distribute food in Yangon for the first time today. The agency has taken initial steps to meet what will be an enormous logistics challenge of bringing in disaster relief supplies, equipment and prepared foods to coastal areas cut off and isolated due to flooding and road damage.
"We are in close contact with the government on the response," Chris Kaye, the WFP's Myanmar country director, said in a statement. "So far, the government has provided some valuable cooperation. In order to meet the needs of the persons most badly affected by the disaster, much more cooperation will be required in the short term."
Officials from the United Nations and other nongovernmental organizations are wary of criticizing the government, which residents accuse of failing to respond or to prepare its citizens adequately.
"What was most striking was the lack of any activity. The lack of any organized response," American Jay Saxon, who was traveling in Myanmar when the storm hit, told ABC News. "Trees and poles were down in the road and even military people were just standing around doing nothing about it."
A Burmese source in the country told ABC News that the government response has been poorly planned and rather than improving, the situation is deteriorating. The source said the capital was tense. Soldiers appear on the streets in large numbers for the first time since the cyclone hit on Saturday, according to witnesses.
As the government has failed to respond, the United States has increased its offers. The State Department said members of a disaster assistance response team are standing by and could get to Myanmar "very, very quickly" if the government gives permission for them to enter the country.
The U.S. Navy has three ships in the Gulf of Thailand carrying out a humanitarian exercise with Thailand called Cobra Gold 2008.
The group is led by the USS Essex, an amphibious ship that is basically a helicopter carrier. If ordered to Myanmar, it would take the group 4½ days to get around the Malay peninsula and reach Myanmar.
But a Pentagon spokesman says the U.S. military will not move the ships to Myanmar until assistance is authorized.
And that is the same authorization that people like Pamela Sitko are waiting for. "It's extremely pertinent that we get access," she said. "Things just keep getting worse."
Kirit Radia and Luis Martinez contributed to this report.