[5/16/08 update: China has ordered an evacuation of rescue workers and reporters from the epicenter of the quake zone due to the threat of a dam burst and rising water, leaving those buried and still not rescued at the mercy of the elements].
Cyclone Nargis' ten hour devastation of Myanmar/Burma last Saturday is quickly emerging as a humanitarian catastrophe, leading their repressive and secretive military junta to take the unprecedented step of requesting international aid, while resisting granting the visas to allow those aid agencies and government organizations the access needed to bring those supplies to the impacted areas.
Reports of Cholera and Malaria in the cyclone zone have now been confirmed. The U.S. was able to land one transport plane with mosquito nets and water purification supplies. The Myanmar Junta has said they will let two more planes in. Concern is growing that the regime is either keeping the supplies for themselves, distributing them only to those with relatives in the military or otherwise connected to the regime and/or selling them on the inflated open market.
(NGO's accepting donations for this disaster: World Vision, Red Cross Red Crescent, America Burma Buddhist Assoc., Global Giving, Doctors without Borders, UN World Food Program).
YANGON, Myanmar (CNN) -- The death toll from the Myanmar cyclone is more than [new U.N. estimate: 100,000] people, Myanmar's Foreign Ministry said Monday. Survivors were facing their third night without electricity in the aftermath of the historic cyclone that also clogged roads with thousands of downed trees.The people of Burma/Myanmar only learned of the impending disaster through outside news sources, such as Radio Free Asia and Voice of America -- which left them without enough time to prepare for the cyclone. There are reports of growing numbers of dead and homeless (rumored six figures), with an estimated ten thousand killed in one town alone:
Diplomats were summoned to a government briefing Monday as the reclusive southeast Asian country's ruling military junta issued a rare appeal for international assistance in the face of an escalating humanitarian crisis.
A state of emergency was declared across much of the country following the 10-hour storm that left swathes of destruction in its wake.
The hardest-hit area was the Irrawaddy region where about 10,000 people died in Bogalay, 90 kms (55 miles) southwest of Yangon.
Aid agencies gathered in nearby Thailand are trying to work out access to the country with the regime. International calls to allow access to aid workers have fallen on deaf ears with the military junta. A U.S. carrier group that is in the Bay of Thailand to conduct, ironically, disaster relief exercises, could have helicopters with relief supplies and experts in the effected areas within hours, but thus far, has not received permission from the Myanmar regime to land.
The U.S. government is now asking China, a Myanmar trading partner, to get the reclusive regime to grant permission. These attempts, thus far, have been unsuccessful, leaving the USS Essex and its tons of relief supplies, marines and disaster relief experts to watch the growing humanitarian disaster in horror and frustration.
“Stories get worse by the hour,” one Yangon resident, who did not want to be identified for fear of government retribution, said in an e-mail message. “No drinking water in many areas, still no power. Houses completely disappeared. Refugees scavenging for food in poorer areas. Roofing, building supplies, tools — all are scarce and prices skyrocketing on everything.”The U.N. Secretary General has issued a statement to say that he was "deeply saddened by the loss of life and the destruction suffered by the people of Myanmar" and has promised international support. No word, as yet, from the Myanmar regime's main trading partner, China, or from the oil and gas companies that do business with them.
Scenes of the destruction showed extensive flooding, boats on their sides in Yangon harbor, roofs ripped off buildings, uprooted trees and downed power lines after cyclone Nargis battered the Irrawaddy delta with 150 mile (241 km) an hour winds throughout Friday night and Saturday morning, dumping 20 inches of rain.The death toll and ongoing humanitarian crisis within the already devastatingly poor population is expected to worsen as are the tensions between the government and their opponents, led by the country's Buddhist monks, whose protests against the junta were put down with violence last fall.
President Bush has pleaded with the junta to "let the United States come in and help you."
First Lady, Laura Bush, in a rare press conference, announced: "Although they were aware of the threat, Burma’s state-run media failed to issue a timely warning to citizens in the storm’s path,” Mrs. Bush said in a rare news conference at the White House. “It’s troubling that many of the Burmese people learned of this impending disaster only when foreign outlets, such as Radio Free Asia and Voice of America, sounded the alarm."
The American Embassy in Myanmar has authorized the release of $250,000 [now up to $3 million] in immediate emergency aid, and Mrs. Bush promised, “More aid will be forthcoming."
Within Burma/Myanmar, the price of gas has soared to $10 per gallon. Food staple costs have risen out of reach of the population. This has led to growing anger across southeast Asia, as the evidence mounts that the regime was not only unprepared for the disaster, but that their handling of it has left entire provinces are without food, shelter, clean water or medical care.
NGO's are coordinating with the United Nations to move aid into the devastated areas as soon as possible. The death toll, both from the storm itself and from its aftermath, is expected to grow.
NGO's accepting donations for this disaster: World Vision, Red Cross Red Crescent, America Burma Buddhist Assoc., Global Giving, Doctors without Borders, UN World Food Program.
LABELS: BURMA, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, CLIMATE, CYCLONE, ENVIRONMENT, MYANMAR, REUTERS, STORM, WEATHER, UNITED NATIONS