Emergency aid from the Helston-based ShelterBox charity is on its way to help victims of a devastating cyclone in Burma.

The charity swung into action after Cyclone Nargis swept through the country on Saturday, leaving thousands of people dead and hundreds of thousands homeless.

ShelterBox founder and chief executive officer Tom Henderson said a "substantial" response was being planned, but the charity urgently needed more donations in order to be able to deliver vital aid.

Some 200 boxes of survival equipment stored in advance in Dubai were due to be dispatched to Burma yesterday. Leilei N Thein, daughter-in-law of the late General Aung San, contacted ShelterBox headquarters in America, offering to clear the way for the boxes to enter the country as quickly as possible.

Meanwhile, back in Helston, volunteers were gathering to pack around 1,000 tents ready to send to Burma.

Members of a ShelterBox response team were at the Myanmar High Commission in London, preparing to fly out to the country and join up with the boxes on the ground to ensure the aid reached those in most need.

Mr Henderson said: "Over the weekend, the decision was made to make a substantial response. Our US and Australian offices are on standby to respond and we will be doing what we do best, which is to respond immediately, deliver aid for our donors and help the most needy."

Yesterday, the official death toll from the cyclone stood at 15,000, but aid agencies said the final figure could be as high as 50,000 - many of the casualties in the low-lying Irrawaddy river delta where the storm wreaked the most havoc.

In the wake of the disaster, Burma appealed for international humanitarian assistance, including urgently needed tents, roofing materials, plastic sheeting, medicine, blankets, mosquito nets and water purification tablets - many of which are contained in ShelterBox's distinctive green boxes.

More donations are needed to ensure the charity can continue to help the cyclone victims. Donations can be made by calling 01326 569782 or visit www.shelterbox.org.