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"A penny for your thoughts"

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Myanmar cyclone Nargis

This particular video is only released here at the time of writing

On 2 May 2008 tropical cyclone Nargis hit the coast of Myanmar and devastated large parts of the low-lying Irrawaddy delta. Winds exceeding 190 kilometres per hour ripped through the Myanmar’s biggest city Yangon for more than ten hours. Homes were flattened, more sturdy structures damaged, trees uprooted and power lines downed. In rural parts of the country up to 95 per cent of homes were wiped off the face of the earth.
Double Click to enlarge.........

PDF UN map showing worst-hit areas, based on satellite imagery [1.13MB]
Google Earth layer of Myanmar cyclone data

Nargis hit right around harvest impacted 65% of the country's paddies. The Irrawaddy Delta is such a fertile area for rice growing that it was known as the "rice bowl" of the British Empire.

This is a situation that the country has not dealt with before and the scale of the needs is clearly massive. Casualty figures with at least 90,000 fatalities with a further 56,000 people still missing. However, the Labutta Township alone was reported to have 80,000 dead, with about 10,000 more deaths in Bogale; the Burmese government's official death toll is grossly under reported as they have simply stopped counting the dead to minimize political fallout. It is feared and quite possible that due to lack of relief efforts, a total of a million people already have or will die from this catastrophe.Damage is estimated at over $10 billion (USD), which made it the most damaging cyclone ever recorded in this basin.

Initially Burma's military junta says "the country is not ready to accept foreign aid workers", amid mounting criticism and outrage of its response to the devastating cyclone. The World Food Programme's Paul Risley said the delays were "unprecedented in modern humanitarian relief efforts". In the days after the storm, the junta pursued a CNN reporter covering the effects of the storm. The reporter was eventually forced to leave the country out of fear of being imprisoned.It was reported that the corpses are now simply being abandoned on the streets.The International Society for Political Prisoner Assistance, located in Bangkok, reported human rights oversights during the disaster, alleging that corrections officers employed with the government had fired upon the prisoners of Yangon's Insein Prison who were attempting to escape amidst the chaos. It has been reported that 36 prisoners were killed and about 70 others were injured.

On 9 May 2008, the junta officially declared that their acceptance of international aid relief would be limited to food, medicines and other supplies as well as financial aid, but would not allow additional foreign aid workers or military units to operate in the country.United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged the junta to allow aid in "without hindrance" after the World Food Programme resumed food aid when two shipments of high-energy biscuits were stolen by the military.Some critics are even suggesting genocide since the Burmese government has deliberately denied storm victims aid, allowing for hundreds of thousands to potentially die from starvation, exposure, and disease.

On May 16, 2008, the Burmese UN ambassador accused France of deploying a warship to the Burmese coast in which France has stated the ship in question is carrying 1,500 tons of relief supplies.The French UN ambassador & UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown has accused the ruling junta of allowing the disaster to grow into a "man-made catastrophe" through its failure to act which could lead to a true crime against humanity.

On May 19, Burma agreed to allow aid from members of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) to enter after an emergency ASEAN summit.That day, Ban announced that Burma was going to "allow all aid workers regardless of nationalies" to enter, although ships and helicopters are still not expected to be allowed after Ban had met with junta leader General Than Shwe for over two hours. On May 23, negotiations between UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and Than Shwe have resulted in the opening of Burma to aid workers, regardless of nationality.

On June 5, a USS Essex-led American carrier group full of aid left the Burmese coast after being denied entry for several weeks, taking its aid back undelivered.

On May 27, to complicate world opinion and in contrast to numerous and varied accounts from international relief organizations, the Myanmar junta praises U.N. aid.

On June 5, 2008, Amnesty International released a report saying that at least thirty people had been evicted from refugee camps. The report also indicated that the military was horse-trading aid for physical labour.

Associated Press, or AP, an American news agency stories state that foreign aid provided to disaster victims was modified to make it look like it came from the military regime, and state-run television continuously ran images of Gen. Than Shwe ceremonially handing out disaster relief.

More than a week after the disaster, only one out of 10 people who are homeless, injured or threatened by disease and hunger have received some kind of aid. More than two weeks later, relief had only reached 25 percent of people in need.

Nine days after the cyclone, the military government was still refusing to grant visas and access for aid workers into the area. The UN has called for an air or sea corridor to be opened to channel large amounts of aid, and the HMS Westminster has been sent to the area, alongside French and United States military assets.

A Global Day of Action for Burma a call for Humanitarian Intervention was held on May 17, 2008, in cities worldwide.

The exact death toll from Nargis will likely never be known for sure, but it was most likely one of the deadliest tropical cyclones worldwide in recorded history.

International relief: (Million USD mark)
Australia AUD $25 million (USD $23.5 million) and 31 tonnes of supplies. 3rd
Canada Up to USD $2 million in emergency relief, $500,000 of which
is for the Red Cross, Disaster Assistance Response Team is
on standby; additional aid to come 10th
China- USD $10 million in aid and relief materials (including 3 flights
using Jade Cargo each consisting of 60 tonnes of aid) 5th
Denmark- USD $2.1 million 10th
European Union- USD $3.0 million 8th
Germany- USD $3.0 million 8th
Ireland- EUR €1,000,000 (USD $1,550,000) 13th
Italy- EUR €1,500,000 (USD $2,250,000) 9th
Japan- JPY ¥28 million in tents and generators = USD $267,000; USD $10
million through UN World Food Program & USD $570,000 pledged
Malaysia- USD $4,100,000 6th
Netherlands- EUR €1,000,000 (USD $1,550,000) 13th
New Zealand- NZD $1.5 million (USD $1.15 million) 14th
Norway- Up to USD $1.96 million 11th
Philippines- Medical workers and $3,000,000 USD and relief goods in cash 7th
Turkey- USD $1,000,000 from Ministry of Foreign Affairs, USD $600,000 from
Turkish Red Crescent 12th
United Kingdom- GBP ₤17 million (USD $33.5 million), HMS Westminster 2nd
United States- USD $41.170 million (as of June 26, 2008) 1st

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