The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and the USS Essex remain in the Andaman Sea off the coast of Myanmar ready to help in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis, a 31st MEU spokesman said Tuesday.

"We are still waiting" to be called upon, Staff Sgt. Marc Ayalin said in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes.

Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar on May 2 and an estimated 130,000 are missing or dead due to the cyclone, according to the United Nations. And about 2.4 million still need assistance, according to the U.N.

Some international aid agencies and foreign relief workers were allowed into the area Monday. However, the Myanmar government continues to refuse the assistance of U.S. and other ships carrying supplies off the coast.

Though they have been denied access, the Marines and sailors of the MEU and Essex have been busy preparing for the possibility they might yet be called to provide humanitarian assistance, according to a Marine release.

More than a dozen met with their counterparts on Le Mistral, a French naval vessel also in the Andaman Sea, on Friday to see "how the other half lives and works," according to the release.

As part of the visit, they toured the French ship’s storage area were 40 tons of supplies were stored that could be used in relief efforts, Capt. Raymond Howard, the 31st MEU’s embarkation officer, said in the release.

The visit also showed where the French sailors and the U.S. Marines and sailors could help each other in any relief efforts.

The French have the relief supplies but limited embarkation equipment. That’s where the MEU and Essex could fill in the gap, Howard said.

"We have plenty of assets to offset the handling equipment they’re missing so it would be great to see us partner with them and get those in need the supplies they require as fast as possible," Howard said.

U.N. leaders expect relief efforts in Myanmar to continue for at least the next six months.

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