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2008 Myanmar Cyclone Nargis

The Basics:

•Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar's Irrawaddy Delta May 2-3, 2008.

•The final official estimated death toll, 84,537, with 53,836 missing and 19,359 injured.

•The UN, as of May 24, estimates 2.4 million were affected by the storm with 2 million living in the hardest-hit areas.

•Map and UNICEF country profile.

•The name 'Nargis' is Urdu for daffodil.



Survivors mark 1 year anniversary of Cyclone Nargis

Emotional survivors have gathered in Burma to remember the 138,000 people left dead or missing by cyclone Nargis, despite authorities largely ignoring the storm's first anniversary. No official ceremonies were planned and state media made no mention of the deadly storm, which lay waste to large swathes of the country on May 2 and 3 last year and drew worldwide criticism for Burma's military rulers. The UN estimates that 183,000 people still live in temporary shelters. The United Nations is seeking close to $1 billion to continue its rebuilding programs over the next three years. But some donor countries remain reluctant to commit to a junta which appears to have learned few if any lessons. AFP/ABC_ 5/2/09

Myanmar cyclone survivors still need water wells and other aid

With tents still serving as homes and schools seven months after Cyclone Nargis lashed Myanmar, survivors say they are struggling to rebuild their lives as international aid trickles in. In a small sign of progress this week, a ceremony was held in Kungyangon to mark a 500,000-dollar donation from a Taiwan-based Buddhist monk, through the Taiwan Red Cross, to build two primary schools and water wells. AFP_ 12/25/08

Six months later, Myanmar cyclone survivors face water shortage

For most of the survivors of Cyclone Nargis, the annual monsoon rains that have lashed Myanmar's Irrawaddy delta for the last six months only compounded the misery. But life without the rains could be even worse. Many village wells and ponds throughout the densely populated rice-growing region remain contaminated by sea water and the rain, collected in jars, plastic sheets or tarpaulins slung outside huts, were the only source of fresh drinking water. Now, with the rainy season coming to an end this month, aid agencies are warning of a renewed threat of diseases such as typhoid and diarrhea from dirty drinking water. In most cases, destitute villagers have saved enough rain water to last a month, they say. With no money to buy bottled water, their options are bleak. Reuters_ 11/3/08

UNICEF stresses water shortage in Myanmar

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) stressed on Monday that although children's need are being met four months after a cyclone storm hit Myanmar, the potential threat of water shortage issue should be addressed immediately, warning that the risk of water shortage is looming in the coming dry season. "Despite ongoing efforts to pump contaminated water out of the ponds, there is a risk that not all the water ponds can be cleaned and refilled before the beginning of the dry season," said UNICEF in Myanmar in its media release. Xinhua_ 9/1/08

Myanmar cyclone victims endure in spite of junta, aid workers say

More than six weeks have passed since Cyclone Nargis swept through the Irrawaddy Delta in southern Myanmar, leaving a trail of flattened villages and broken lives and arousing international sympathy that turned to anguish as the military government obstructed foreign aid. While it is estimated that the cyclone may have killed 130,000 people, the number of lives lost specifically because of the junta’s slow response to the disaster appears to have been smaller than expected. Those who survived were not likely to be injured in the aftermath by falling rocks or collapsing buildings, as often happens during natural disasters, like the earthquake in China. That appears to be the primary reason villagers were able to stay alive for weeks without aid. As they waited, the survivors, most of whom were fishermen and farmers, lived off of coconuts, rotten rice and fish. Relief workers say the debate over access for foreigners and the refusal of the government to allow in military helicopters and ships from the United States, France and Britain overshadowed a substantial relief operation carried out mainly by Burmese citizens and monks. They organized convoys of trucks filled with drinking water, clothing, food and construction materials that poured into the delta. New York Times_ 6/18/08 (logon required)

In Myanmar, a Los Angeles Times reporter worked in secret to cover the story

More than a month after Cyclone Nargis, the government continues to deny unhindered access to the disaster zone for foreign experts, such as medical and water-purification teams, threatening thousands of lives, especially those of children, pregnant women and the elderly, the United Nations and other agencies say. At one village visited by the Los Angeles Times reporter, what they all needed most, said Pyinar Wata, 60, was a pump and some diesel fuel to run it, so they could empty a 150-square-foot reservoir of seawater and corpses and let it fill with clean rainwater. He might as well have been asking for a rocket to Mars. Los Angeles Times_ 6/13/08 (logon required)

Myanmar junta begins evicting cyclone victims from shelters

A visit to villages here in the Irrawaddy Delta, hit hardest by the May 3 cyclone, suggests that the story of the death and destruction, compounded by the junta’s actions, has been neither fully told nor even fully seen. Even as the junta publicly praised its own largess, it more quietly began evicting destitute families from monasteries and sending them back to their villages for “reconstruction” and a life of isolation. It then began shutting down its own refugee camps. Forcing the survivors to move deep back into the sprawling delta will further stymie aid groups that have been obstructed by the junta from reaching victims and sending in disaster experts and vital supplies. The United Nations said this week that at least 1.1 million survivors still lacked sufficient food and clean water. And despite promises from General Than Shwe to the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, aid groups were still being required to apply for travel permits at least 48 hours before any trip to the delta. So far, only a few have been granted; in some cases, aid workers can visit delta villages only with government escorts. Interviews with survivors there continue, still a month later, to reveal how the combination of weather, topography and a government determined to keep its people isolated and ignorant of their rights turned the cyclone, Nargis, into the world’s deadliest natural disaster since the Asian tsunami in 2004. New York Times_ 6/7/08 (logon required)

Myanmar lashes foreign media over 'despicable' cyclone reports

Myanmar on Friday accused foreign media of fabricating "despicable and inhuman" stories about the cyclone, as new delays hampered efforts to reach one million hungry and homeless survivors. The official newspaper New Light of Myanmar denounced "self-seekers exploiting storm victims," who they said were "shooting video films featuring made-up stories in the storm-affected areas ... and sending the videotapes to foreign news agencies." Cyclone Nargis left 133,000 people dead or missing. The United Nations says 2.4 million people need emergency aid in the wake of the storm, but five weeks after the storm hit, one million of them have yet to receive any. While aid agencies as well as Southeast Asian and UN experts have been allowed into the region, they say access remains patchy -- especially for remote villages hidden in the maze of rivers that laces the delta. The UN's World Food Programme (WFP) won permission more than two weeks ago to bring 10 helicopters into Myanmar, but so far only one is actually flying between Yangon and the delta. AFP 6/6/08

Myanmar's growing peril: Disease

Myint Hlaing's family bathes and cooks with water from an irrigation ditch fouled by human waste and a rotting cow carcass. His 10-year-old daughter drinks bottled water donated by aid groups, but she still suffers from diarrhea. Myanmar's junta insists that health conditions are normal in Myanmar's devastated Irrawaddy delta. But in many areas of the delta, they are a recipe for disease. A relief group, Church World Service, has reported finding elderly and child survivors of the cyclone dying from dysentery in some areas because many have no choice but to drink dirty water. Other groups have detected a number of ailments including pneumonia, malaria, cholera and diarrhea. The monsoon season, which begins next month, adds yet another challenge. "The rain is a real problem," said Eric Stover, lead author of a critical report published last year about Myanmar's health system. "The water is rising up, and the latrines are just outside [flowing] into the water, and there's livestock around. That's the perfect breeding ground for diarrhea and cholera." UNICEF has been canvassing the area and has reported a growing number of diarrhea cases - up to 30 percent of young children in one township. The World Health Organization says it still does not have a clear medical picture because tight government restrictions have kept the delta off-limits to its foreign experts. Remote villages accessed only by boat remain the biggest question mark because many still have not been reached more than three weeks after the storm. AP/Philadelphia Inquirer_ 5/27/08

U.N. chief: Turning point in Myanmar aid crisis

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he is hopeful "a turning point" has been reached in tackling Myanmar's cyclone crisis as an international conference Sunday pledged tens of millions of dollars for some 2.4 million survivors who need aid. The one-day, 52-nation conference began on an optimistic note after the ruling junta promised that foreign aid workers could enter the most devastated areas, from which they have been banned since the cyclone struck three weeks ago. After the conference ended, Ban said he was "confident" the junta will honor its commitment to open up. Myanmar's Prime Minister Lt. Gen. Thein Sein, shedding his military uniform for the traditional sarong-like "longyi" and jacket, said that international aid "with no strings attached" was welcome, but that only civilian vessels could take part in the aid operation. U.S., British and French warships, loaded with humanitarian supplies, have been cruising off Myanmar's coast. But last week state-media said they would not be allowed into the country, citing fears of an American invasion to snatch the country's oil supplies. Myanmar's generals have a long history of making promises to top U.N. envoys, then breaking them when the international spotlight on their country fades. AP/CNN_ 5/25/08

Myanmar concedes to access ahead of donor meeting

Aid agencies geared up Saturday to go into Myanmar's cyclone-hit Irrawaddy delta after the country's ruling junta vowed to open its doors to help ahead of an international donors meeting. After weeks of stubbornly refusing assistance, Myanmar's ruling generals have told the United Nations they are now willing to allow workers of all nationalities to help survivors of the storm that left about 78,000 people dead and another 56,000 missing. The ability to assess the situation will be critical in securing pledges from foreign governments, and the junta's about face was seen as a concession to get more aid when 45 potential donor nations meet Sunday in Yangon, Myanmar's biggest city. An estimate released Saturday by the U.N. said that while about 42 percent of the 2.4 million people affected by the storm had received some kind of emergency assistance, only 23 percent of the 2 million people living in the hardest-hit areas had been reached. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Myanmar's ruling generals had told him that international aid workers will be able "to freely reach the needy people," a pledge the junta has not publicly acknowledged. AP/ABC News_ 5/24/08

Myanmar to allow U.N. helicopters to deliver aid to some of nation's least accessible areas

Myanmar's reclusive government has agreed to allow U.N. helicopters into some of the least accessible areas of the country's cyclone-devastated delta, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday. Little aid has reached victims of Myanmar's cyclone as flooding continues. "This is a critical moment for Myanmar," said Ban, who plans to visit Myanmar on Wednesday. "We have a functioning program in place, but so far we have only been able to reach about 25 percent of Myanmar's people in need." Nine U.N. helicopters will be allowed into the country, he said. Myanmar's leaders agreed Monday to let its South Asian neighbors send medical personnel and an assessment team to the devastated region, more than two weeks after a storm that killed tens of thousands of people. On Sunday, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the United Nations are hosting a conference in Yangon on disaster relief and other topics. CNN_ 5/20/08

Myanmar junta leader visits refugees; U.S. ships carrying fresh water arrive in area

Two weeks after Cyclone Nargis devastated Myanmar, the country's reclusive junta leader Than Shwe visited a refugee camp outside Yangon, according to video broadcast on state television. The visit comes on the day that United Nations humanitarian chief John Holmes arrived in Myanmar, which is also known as Burma, to assess the scope of the disaster. He will meet with the country's rulers and try to convince them that a disaster of such magnitude cannot be handled by one nation alone, said spokeswoman spokeswoman Amanda Pitt. Meanwhile, Pentagon officials said the USS Essex, USS Juneau and USS Harpers Ferry are in international waters off the coast of the country, laden with more than 14,000 containers of fresh water and other aid and awaiting orders to deliver by air or landing craft. CNN_ 5/18/08

Clean water most urgent for Myanmar: International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)

The international Red Cross says a lack of clean water will be the biggest killer in Myanmar in the coming days. International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies says hundreds of thousands of cyclone victims in the Southeast Asian country need clean water urgently or risk falling victim to diseases such as dysentery. The Geneva-based group says its partner organization in Myanmar currently lacks the logistical and material capacity to distribute water purification units to all those who need it. The head of IFRC's global operations division made the comments Friday as the group launched a $51 million appeal to fund its aid operation in Myanmar over the coming years. AP/Time/CNN_ 5/16/08

Myanmar official death toll soars to more than 77,000

Torrential rain lashed survivors of Cyclone Nargis on Friday as Myanmar's junta raised its toll sharply to more than 133,000 people dead or missing, putting the disaster on a par with a 1991 cyclone that killed 143,000 in neighboring Bangladesh. In a shocking update to a count that had consistently lagged international aid agency estimates, state television said 77,738 people were dead and 55,917 missing after the May 2 storm in the military-ruled country formerly known as Burma. Up to 2.5 million survivors are clinging to life in the low-lying Irrawaddy delta, with thousands of people lining roadsides to beg for help in the absence of large-scale government or foreign relief operations. Reuters_ 5/16/08

Myanmar junta warns against hoarding cyclone aid

Myanmar's junta warned Thursday it will punish anyone found hoarding or trading foreign aid meant for cyclone survivors, but relief groups said they had seen no evidence of people selling or stockpiling donated goods. Myanmar's military, which has ruled for 46 years, has itself come under suspicion of diverting relief supplies. Its warning against hoarding alluded to the allegations, saying the regime is rushing all donated supplies to those in need. Tons of food, water, blankets, mosquito nets, medicine and tents have been flown in to Myanmar from international donors, but delivery to the 1.5 million to 2 million affected by the May 3 storm has been slowed by bottlenecks, poor infrastructure and bureaucratic tangles. New York-based Human Rights Watch said countries delivering aid to Myanmar should insist on monitoring the shipments to ensure all aid reaches the neediest and to prevent the military from diverting any supplies. The group also said it had confirmed an Associated Press report this week that the junta took control of high-protein biscuits supplied by the international community and then distributed low-quality, locally produced substitutes to civilians. AP_ 5/15/08

Aid groups say Myanmar supplies stolen by military

The directors of several relief organizations in Myanmar said Wednesday that some of the international aid arriving into the country for the victims of Cyclone Nargis was being stolen, diverted or warehoused by the country’s army. The United States military’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center said there was a possibility that “a significant tropical cyclone” — a second big storm — would form within the next 24 hours and head across the Irrawaddy Delta, the region that suffered most from the first storm that struck on May 3. Thailand’s prime minister, Samak Sundaravej, flew to Yangon on Wednesday to persuade Myanmar’s leaders to allow more foreign aid workers into the country. The members of the military junta told him they were in control of the relief operations and had no need for foreign experts, he told reporters after returning to Bangkok, The Associated Press reported. The government said there were no outbreaks of disease or starvation among the hundreds of thousands of people affected by the cyclone. Marcel Wagner, country director of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, said the Adventist group specializes in rainwater collection, water filtration and sanitation — just the kinds of expertise most needed now — and he said outside experts were needed to train local people in the proper use of filters, pumps and hygiene practices. New York Times_ 5/15/08 (logon required)

Rain lashes Myanmar cyclone survivors

Heavy rains pelted homeless cyclone survivors in Myanmar's Irrawaddy delta on Tuesday, complicating the already slow delivery of aid to more than 1.5 million people facing hunger and disease. As more foreign aid trickled into the former Burma, critics ratcheted up the pressure on its military rulers to accelerate a relief effort that is only delivering an estimated tenth of the supplies needed in the devastated delta. Myanmar state television said the official death toll had risen to 34,273 from nearly 32,000 and 27,838 were missing. At the United Nations in New York, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon delivered his most critical comments to date. "I want to register my deep concern -- and immense frustration -- at the unacceptably slow response to this grave humanitarian crisis," he told reporters on Monday. "We are at a critical point," he said. "Unless more aid gets into the country very quickly, we face an outbreak of infectious diseases that could dwarf today's crisis." Reuters_ 5/13/08

Austrian Red Cross to send water specialists to Myanmar

The Austrian Red Cross said Monday it would send three Austrian and several German drinking-water specialists to cyclone-hit Myanmar Wednesday. The team, which will remain on the ground for six to eight weeks, will be tasked with setting up drinking water facilities, the Red Cross said in a statement. AFP/NASDAQ_ 5/13/08

Cyclone victims may have to wait weeks for aid

Relief workers who are still prohibited from entering Myanmar warned that it could take weeks to reach many cyclone victims due to the nation's decrepit infrastructure. Such a delay will increase the number of people at risk and raise the possibility of unrest, they said. As many as 1.5 million people -- including more than 200,000 now believed to be congregating in temporary camps along Myanmar's coast -- face an increasing risk of epidemics of malaria, cholera and other potentially deadly diseases, aid workers said. A doctor in the town of Bogalay, in the heart of the affected region, said many victims are drinking unpurified water from lakes and other places, with many freshwater sources littered with decaying human bodies and animal carcasses. Oxfam, an international development agency, says as many as 1.5 million are "in danger" if clean water and sanitation aren't provided. Myanmar now faces a "massive public-health catastrophe," Sarah Ireland, Oxfam's regional director for East Asia, said Sunday in Bangkok. She described factors including lack of water, lack of food and a new round of severe weather expected this week that could make aid delivery even more challenging. Wall Street Journal_ 5/11/08

Myanmar junta still blocking cyclone aid

A trickle of aid shipments arrived in Myanmar on Sunday, more than a week after a massive cyclone smashed the country, but officials continued to bar major shipments to the storm's hard-hit survivors. The junta is refusing to grant entry to foreign aid workers, who relief officials say are crucial to preventing more deaths from disease among an estimated 1.5 million victims of the May 3 storm. In another blow to aid efforts, a ship carrying aid sank on the way from Yangon, the financial capital, to the Irrawaddy Delta, which bore the brunt of the storm. Reuters reported Sunday that state-run Myanmar TV had said that 28,458 people had died in the cyclone and that 33,416 were missing. Reuters also reported that the UN humanitarian agency had said in a new assessment that 1.2 million to 1.9 million people were struggling to survive in the aftermath of the storm. "The number of deaths could range from 63,290 to 101,682, and 220,000 people are reported to be missing," the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said. Some water and electricity had been restored by Sunday in Yangon, but prices for rice and fuel had increased sharply, along with prices for candles while the power was out. As aid shipments continued Sunday, a spokesman for the World Food Program, Paul Risley, said that they amounted to about one-tenth of what was needed and that the country also needed to start a major logistical operation to help victims of the storm. The focus of the military junta, meanwhile, was on its referendum for a constitution that was intended to perpetuate its rule. Many residents said the vote followed a campaign of coercion and propaganda. The military appeared to have diverted some resources from helping cyclone victims to overseeing the voting, which was held in all but the hardest hit areas. Relief officials warned of an epidemic of cholera and said there was generally a 10-day window after a disaster before the death rate rose steeply. Health officials were concerned about the potential for cholera, typhoid and dysentery, which can be spread by contaminated water and food. Severe diarrhea can be rapidly fatal, especially in children, and clean water and rehydrating solutions must be made available quickly to save lives. International Herald Tribune_ 5/11/08

UNICEF plane with 3 million water purification tablets lands in Burma

UNICEF Ireland has confirmed that a Thai Airways plane carrying UNICEF emergency supplies has landed in Burma. Three million water purification tablets, which can purify five million litres of contaminated water were on board. This is enough to provide clean water for around 200,000 people for a week. UNICEF Ireland Executive Director Melanie Verwoerd said that with many roads blocked, distributing purification tablets is a quicker and more practical solution than trying to distribute large quantities of portable water containers. Ms Verwoerd said that the levels of contaminated water in the region following the cyclone will create an even larger humanitarian crisis. “Pools of standing water permeate cramped makeshift shelteres, creating a breeding ground for mosquitoes”, she said. Given these conditions, we are going to see a rise in malaria cases, and diarrhoea, which are two of the deadliest threats to children." According to UNICEF workers on the ground in Burma, 20 per cent of children in the worst affected areas already have diarrhoea and cases of malaria have been reported. Irish Times_ 5/11/08

Myanmar death toll rises, Red Cross boat with water purification supplies sinks

Myanmar says the death toll from Cyclone Nargis that struck the country on May 3 has jumped by 5,000 to 28,458. The announcement came as the Red Cross aid agency said that a boat carrying vital relief supplies to cyclone survivors sank in the disaster zone after hitting a submerged tree trunk. No one was injured in Sunday's incident. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (ICRC) said that the locally hired boat was carrying 100 bags of rice, 5,000 litres of drinking water, 10,000 water purification tablets, jerry cans, stretchers, clothes, household goods, soap, rubber gloves and surgical masks. The incident happened near the Irrawaddy delta town of Bogalay, one of the regions worst hit by Nargis. Diplomats in Yangon, Myanmar's former capital, say up to 100,000 people may have been killed by Nargis, while more than one million have been left without shelter. Survivors have begun to pour out of the Irrawaddy delta in search of food, water and medicine. Aid workers cautioned that thousands of them will die if emergency supplies do not get through soon. The Myanmar government is accepting aid from the outside world, including the UN, but officials have made it clear that they will not let in foreign logistics teams who are needed to transport the aid into the delta. Al Jazeera_ 5/11/08

U.N. resuming aid to Myanmar after dispute with junta

As misery grew for a sixth day for uncounted survivors of the devastating cyclone in Myanmar, the United Nations said Friday that the government had seized its relief supplies in Yangon, while a Pentagon official said that the junta had come to a breakthrough agreement to allow a single American aid plane to land on its territory. Both developments underscored the painstaking negotiations over aid and its excruciatingly slow pace as the country’s iron-fisted military rulers block relief workers and most supplies. Altogether, by one count, 11 chartered planes with relief supplies have landed in Myanmar, a tiny amount for a disaster that the United Nations said may have affected 1.5 million people. Six days after the cyclone struck, ravaging much of Myanmar’s coast, the scale of the damage has yet to be fully assessed. Reports from inside the country, including from the few outside organizations allowed to operate there, suggest that food and clean water are scarce or entirely unavailable in the worst-struck areas, and that the death toll could escalate from the official count of 22,500. Aid officials and health experts are deeply worried about new ravages from diseases like cholera and acute diarrhea. But there is little hard data. The first United Nations flights arrived Thursday, carrying high energy biscuits, water containers, food and plastic sheets. But one aircraft and two relief workers were reported to have been turned back at the airport. And on Friday, the United Nations World Food Program said the aid it had delivered had been seized. After saying it would halt deliveries, the agency said flights would continue on Saturday while the issue is worked out. A spokesman for Unicef, Christopher de Bono, said in an e-mail that millions of water purification tablets had been delivered thursday and that although customs clearance could take two days, “as far as we know there has been no indication of any problems so far." In a telephone call from Myanmar, an official of the International Red Cross, Micheal Annear, said delivery work was proceeding normally in cooperation with other agencies and local businesses. Among the forces the United States could call on is the Essex Strike Group, which was in the region for Cobra Gold military exercises with Thailand. Among the ships, the Essex can produce 50,000 gallons of fresh water per day, while the Harpers Ferry and Juneau each can produce 10,000 gallons of fresh water per day. Also, a larger C-17 was flown to Thailand with water purification systems and packaged military meals on board. New York Times_ 5/9/08

UN halts aid to Myanmar after junta seizes supplies

Myanmar's junta seized UN aid shipments today meant for a multitude of hungry and homeless survivors of last week's devastating cyclone, forcing the world body to suspend further help. At least 62,000 people are dead or missing in Myanmar, entire villages are submerged in the Irrawaddy delta and aid groups warned that the area is on the verge of a medical disaster. The UN has grown increasingly critical of Myanmar's military rulers' refusal to let foreign aid workers into the country while the junta appeared overwhelmed and more than 1 million homeless people waited for food, medicine and shelter. The junta said in a statement today it was grateful to the international community for its assistance — which has included 11 chartered planes loaded with aid supplies — but the best way to help was just to send in material rather than personnel. Nearly a week after the storm, survivors are now having to contend with rotting corpses of people and animals as they wait for food, clean water and medicine. AP/Detroit Free Press_ 5/9/08

How cyclone Nargis got its name

The name 'Nargis' means daffodil in Urdu for the cyclone was suggested by Pakistan to the India Meteorological Department, which is a Regional Specialised Meteorological Center recognised by the World Meteorological Organisation, IMD Director B P Yadav told PTI. IMD has the mandate to provide weather advisories to seven countries -- Bangladesh, the Maldives, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Thailand and Sri Lanka [Images] besides India. It also asks these countries to suggest names for the cyclones, which are then listed in an alphabetical order of the names of the member countries, he said. The main north Indian Ocean tropical season runs from May to November and Nargis was the first this season. The convention of naming cyclones dates back to the early 20th century when an Australian forecaster named major storms after politicians he disliked. PTI/Rediff_ 5/9/08

Canada's Commons urges Myanmar military to accept world aid

The Commons unanimously adopted a resolution Friday urging Myanmar's reclusive military regime to accept international relief teams in the wake of last weekend's catastrophic cyclone. The xenophobic Burmese junta has said it will accept aid, but is leery of allowing foreign aid workers into the country. Canada has already offered to send the military Disaster Assistance Response Team to the hurricane-ravaged country and has pledged $2 million for relief efforts. The disaster team is an air-portable organization of about 200 soldiers. It includes doctors and medics who can provide basic medical care. Its engineers can rebuild basic infrastructure and run water-purification units that can produce up to 50,000 litres of drinking water daily. It can also provide sophisticated communications services. The team has been deployed to Turkey, Honduras, Sri Lanka and Pakistan since it was established in 1996. The motion came as the UN announced it would resume aid shipments on Saturday after briefly suspending its airlift into the country because it said the military was seizing the supplies. The International Federation of the Red Cross said Friday it has not had problems with aid being seized and was expecting flights to go in every day next week. Cyclone Nargis, which crashed over the low-lying Irrawaddy Delta on Saturday is believed to have killed more than 100,000 people and left countless others without clean water, food, medicine and shelter. Myanmar's isolationist regime has indicated it wants international relief but not foreign aid workers.

Canadian Press_ 5/9/08

Cyclone Nargis had all he makings of 'a perfect storm'

It was Asia's answer to Hurricane Katrina. Packing winds upwards of 120 mph, Cyclone Nargis became one of Asia's deadliest storms by hitting land at one of the lowest points in Myanmar and setting off a storm surge that reached 25 miles inland. Forecasters began tracking the cyclone April 28 as it first headed toward India. As projected, it took a sharp turn eastward, but didn't follow the typical cyclone track in that area leading to Bangladesh or Myanmar's mountainous northwest. Instead, it swept into the low-lying Irrawaddy delta in central Myanmar. The result was the worst disaster ever in the impoverished country. It was the first time such an intense storm hit the delta, said Jeff Masters, co-founder and director of meteorology at the San Francisco-based Weather Underground. He called it "one of those once-in-every-500-years kind of things." When the storm made landfall early Saturday at the mouth of the Irrawaddy River, its battering winds pushed a wall of water as high as 12 feet some 25 miles inland, laying waste to villages and killing tens of thousands. U.N. officials estimate 1.5 million people were left in severe straits. The delta had lost most of its mangrove forests along the coast to shrimp farms and rice paddies over the past decade. That removed what scientists say is one of nature's best defenses against violent storms. AP/Yahoo!_ 5/8/08

UNICEF: Safe water is the difference between life and death in post-cyclone Myanmar
Three million water-purification tablets are on their way to Myanmar to help families in the Irrawaddy Delta cope with the potentially deadly after-effects of Cyclone Nargis.  The United Nations says the situation is becoming increasingly precarious, with up to 1 million people affected. There are fears that the death toll could reach 100,000.  According to UNICEF Myanmar Officer in Charge Jaunita Vasquez, assessment teams have witnessed widespread flooding and damage, with trees uprooted and homes and schools destroyed. There is little safe water or electricity, children are on the streets and the rice harvest has been ruined.  In addition to medical supplies and oral rehydration tablets, UNICEF Myanmar has distributed about 15,000 kits that enable families to use small amounts of chlorine to treat their water. Twenty thousand more kits are being flown in from Dubai.  'This morning, 3 million tablets went out by air,' said UNICEF Chief of Knowledge Management Rudolph Schwenk, speaking from UNICEF's main supply hub in Copenhagen. 'They will arrive tomorrow morning in Myanmar. They will be used for purifying 3 million litres of contaminated water.  Relief Web Press Release_5/9/08

Myanmar cyclone death toll soars past 22,000: state radio

The cyclone death toll soared above 22,000 on Tuesday and more than 41,000 others were missing as the international community prepared to rush in aid after the country's deadliest storm on record, state radio reported. Up to 1 million people may be homeless after Cyclone Nargis hit the Southeast Asian nation, also known as Burma, early Saturday. Some villages have been almost totally eradicated and vast rice-growing areas are wiped out, the World Food Program said. AP_ 5/6/08

Cyclone sends Myanmar back in time: Power cuts, water scarce

Residents of Myanmar's largest city were plunged into a primitive existence Monday, using candles instead of electricity, lining up to buy shrinking supplies of water and hacking their way through streets blocked by trees felled in a cyclone that killed more than 350. Neighboring Thailand announced it would fly in the first planeload of emergency assistance Tuesday requested by the Myanmar government, easing fears that the ruling junta would reject international aid. Older citizens said they had never seen the capital, Yangon, a city of some 6.5 million, so devastated in their lifetimes. With the city's already unstable electricity supply virtually nonfunctional, citizens lined up to buy candles, which doubled in price, and water since lack of electricity-driven pumps left most households dry. Some walked to the city's lakes to wash. AP/Yahoo_ 5/5/08



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