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  1. #1
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    Default Myanmar Cyclone Disaster

    I don't know how many of you have been following the situation in Myanmar after Cyclone Nargis struck over a week ago, but the situation looks to get much worse.

    Myanmar warned it could cause it's own disaster
    Aileen McCabe, Asia Correspondent, Canwest News Service
    Published: 47 minutes ago
    BANGKOK -- Myanmar may be on the brink of a second disaster, "potentially larger than the first," but this time self-inflicted.

    More than a week after Cyclone Nargis hit, the Myanmar government's continued refusal to allow more than a trickle of aid into the country and no experienced disaster relief workers has upped the chance of disease wiping out more people than the cyclone and the tidal surge that followed it.

    The regime now says 28,458 are dead and 33,416 missing, but international agencies put the death toll much higher and the UN warned Sunday that it could hit 150,000 if aid doesn't start flowing soon.


    Survivors of Cyclone Nargis wait in a line to receive rice at a village in Kungyangon, south of Yangon May 10, 2008.
    Reuters

    Gordon Bacon, the International Rescue Committee emergency coordinator in Yangon, said his teams are starting to penetrate some of the areas worst hit by Nargis and they are finding villages where all the homes are destroyed and survivors who have had no clean water since May 2.

    "With each passing day, we come closer to a massive health disaster and a second wave of deaths that is potentially larger than the first," Bacon said.

    In Thailand, the IRC's regional director Greg Beck said: "Everything hinges on access. Unless there's a massive and fast infusion of aid, experts and supplies into the hardest-hit areas, there's going to be a tragedy at an unimaginable scale."

    Until now, both governments and aid agencies have been excessively careful when they talked about the disaster in Myanmar. They obviously did not want to cause panic, but neither did they want to anger the country's paranoid regime while there is still hope of access to one of the world's most isolated countries.

    By telephone from a hotel in Yangon where he has set-up temporary headquarters after Nargis destroyed his offices, Brian Agland, country director for CARE International, said his workers have been interviewing survivors who have collected in makeshift camps in the Irrawaddy Delta area and hearing repeated stories of villages of 400 or so people where only three or four people survived.

    He said the survivors they are seeing are mostly adults, "a lot of the dead are children and elderly."

    Agland said he is working with local staff who "don't have experience" to deal with this kind of disaster. "We definitely need the experts to be brought in."

    He also said the aid supplies and food sitting on tarmacs and in warehouses around the region, waiting for clearance from the Myanmar junta, are needed now.

    The World Food Programme estimates that aid has reached only about one-quarter of the 1.5 to 2 million victims of the cyclone.

    In the midst of this tragedy, Myanmar's generals held a referendum on a new constitution on Saturday and on Sunday celebrated an "overwhelming turnout."

    The state-controlled news was full of the vote and pictures of the generals who insisted it go forward despite worldwide pleas to postpone it and concentrate on the crisis.

    The International Committee of the Red Cross said that by the end of Monday it should have seven aid flights in Myanmar, but distribution of its supplies is a major problem, particularly after its first "relief boat" sank Sunday when it ran into a submerged tree.

    The federation's disaster manager Michael Annear said in a statement from Yangon that the sinking was "a big blow. Apart from the delay in getting aid to people we may now have to re-evaluate how we transport that aid."

    The Red Cross had already identified the logistics of moving aid as "one of the keys to this evolving operation."

    It said its logistics unit in Kuala Lumpur is working on the problem, but it has no experts on the ground to assess the situation. Moreover, until Sunday, when Head of Delegation Bridget Gardener was allowed to travel to the Delta area to evaluate the situation, only local staff had been permitted to venture into the worst hit areas. International staff is confined to Yangon, the former Burmese capital, Rangoon.

    Oxfam, which is probably the best equipped international agency to deal with the drinking water and sanitation problems which are posing the greatest health risks to the cyclone survivors, is not registered in Myanmar and has yet to receive permission to enter the country.

    Chief Executive Officer Barbara Stocking told the BBC that Oxfam had supplies and experts ready to move in an instant if the generals would only relent.

    "We are at huge risk of diseases spreading now," she said, "particularly dysentery and cholera."

    The World Health Organization, which is on the ground but has yet to penetrate far into the worst disaster zones, says it is already seeing diarrhea and dengue fever and fears outbreaks of malaria and measles, which are both endemic in Myanmar.

    It takes hundreds of millions of dollars over a period that often stretches to two or three years to deal with a disaster on the scale Myanmar suffered.

    The United Nations has launched an immediate appeal for $187 million US for disaster relief and individual aid agencies around the world are also raising funds. But while governments and ordinary people are stepping up to donate, fund raising is not being made any easier by the junta's intransigence.

    CARE Canada's Kieran Green said that donors are hesitant, given what is happening on the ground. "They are concerned their money will not get through," he said.
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  2. #2
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    Natural selection. As brutal as it may sound.
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    I have a good friend in Burma who's been there for about 5 years now. Her mom is flying there today, because she's got terribly ill, have no medications or drinking water - and doesn't even know if the government would even let her in.

    Massive fuck up..

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    "Burma!"

    "Why'd you say 'Burma'?"

    "I panicked"

    [announcer on TV] "And now it's time for the Pengiun on your television set to explode"
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    You lost me on that, axx..

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    I bet John Rambo is still kicking some ass...
    "Watch what people are cynical about, and one can often discover what they lack.” -- Gen. George S. Patton

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    Quote Originally Posted by WinterlessIceness View Post


    You lost me on that, axx..
    Dude, you need to bone up on your Monty Python.
    "Nothing is ever what it seems but everything is exactly what it is." - B. Banzai


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    Quote Originally Posted by Axxman300 View Post
    Dude, you need to bone up on your Monty Python.
    Gah, shud 'av know it was a movie reference. I've only seen the holy grail one.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ron4406 View Post
    Natural selection. As brutal as it may sound.
    People are dying over politics.
    I guess you could argue that as "natural".

  10. #10
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    On the BBC a little debate about this situation gave forward the view that the international community should not wait for permission to go in with aid.
    Simply just go in and back it up with the threat of force should the aid workers be harmed in anyway.
    It was an interesting idea and whilst full of problems the whole panel was pretty silent about it, especially considering it's obvious ramifications.
    I'm not convinced but when you've got a couple of million people at risk maybe extreme measures are required.
    Time will tell on this one.
    Thinking about the escalation of severe weather and for some reason, a little bit more on the earthquake front (China right now) and volcanic activity, maybe a worldwide organisation with absolute rights of humanitarian national entry might be a good idea.
    No permission required, just go.
    How many would sign up?
    A man could lose himself in a country like this.

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    This has gone from a natural disaster to a political catastrophe. The fact that the government is so paranoid of losing power as to deny outside assistance is amazing.

    On a related note: There are several church denominations that are working with their regional Myanmar/Burmese counterparts to bypass the governement to get financial and material assistance to the affected. This may not be easy but such efforts are probably the best hope for providing help. If you feel so inclined to help, don't let the news about their government deter you.
    https://secure.ga3.org/03/myanmar_cyclone_response
    http://www.weekofcompassion.org/page...s/may0808.html
    http://www.pcusa.org/pda/

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by graeme View Post
    On the BBC a little debate about this situation gave forward the view that the international community should not wait for permission to go in with aid.
    Simply just go in and back it up with the threat of force should the aid workers be harmed in anyway.
    It was an interesting idea and whilst full of problems the whole panel was pretty silent about it, especially considering it's obvious ramifications.
    I'm not convinced but when you've got a couple of million people at risk maybe extreme measures are required.
    Time will tell on this one.
    Thinking about the escalation of severe weather and for some reason, a little bit more on the earthquake front (China right now) and volcanic activity, maybe a worldwide organisation with absolute rights of humanitarian national entry might be a good idea.
    No permission required, just go.
    How many would sign up?

    While I agree with you completely, there's apparently such thing as "country's vanity". How much international support has the US accepted after Katrina? I sure as hell know they rejected a fully-loaded Russian air squad of EMS/rescue team.


    Here we talk about a country with a military control.

  13. #13
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    The wheels are turning on getting aid in, but oh so slowly.

    Myanmar accepts U.S. airlift
    By The Associated Press





    YANGON, Myanmar -- The United States launched its first relief airlift to Myanmar today after prolonged negotiations with the isolated country's military rulers, who have been accused of restricting international efforts to help cyclone survivors at risk of disease and starvation.

    The flight took off from a base in Thailand a day after the monumental task of feeding and sheltering the survivors suffered yet another blow when a boat laden with relief supplies -- one of the first international shipments -- sank on its way to the disaster zone.

    An estimated 1.5 million people are on the brink of a "massive public-health catastrophe," the British charity Oxfam warned Sunday, as desperate survivors of Cyclone Nargis poured out of Myanmar's devastated Irrawaddy Delta into towns in the region, searching for water, food and other help.

    Myanmar is facing a "perfect storm" of conditions that could lead to an outbreak of waterborne disease, said Sarah Ireland, Oxfam's regional director.

    "The ponds are full of dead bodies, the wells have saline water and even things like a bucket are in scarce supply," Ireland said.

    She appealed for Myanmar authorities, who have restricted access to the country, to allow humanitarian agencies to send in technical and health experts to help prevent disease outbreaks.

    In what was seen as a huge concession by the junta, it gave the U.S., which it views as its enemy, the go-ahead to send a C-130 cargo plane packed with supplies to Yangon today. Two more air shipments were scheduled to land Tuesday.

    The C-130, loaded with 28,000 pounds of supplies, including mosquito nets, blankets and water, took off from the Thai air force base in Utapao. Lt. Col. Douglas Powell, U.S. Marines spokesman for the operation, said the plane was carrying U.S. government, not military, supplies and was unarmed.

    Early Sunday, relief efforts suffered a setback when a boat ferrying rice, drinking water, clothing and other aid supplies sank near hard-hit Bogalay town, apparently after hitting a submerged tree, the International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) and Red Crescent Societies said.

    Some supplies recovered

    Local residents salvaged some of the supplies, meant for more than 1,000 survivors, but river water probably contaminated the food, the organization said.

    All of those aboard made it safely to land. The boat was carrying one of the first international-aid shipments.



    "Apart from the delay in getting aid to people, we may now have to re-evaluate how we transport that aid," said Michael Annear, the IFRC's disaster manager in Yangon, who described the sinking as "a big blow."

    Other aid was increasingly getting through, the group said, but on "nowhere near the scale required."

    "A natural disaster is turning into a humanitarian catastrophe of genuinely epic proportions, in significant part because of the malign neglect of the regime," said British Foreign Secretary David Miliband.

    "I would be amazed if there hadn't been about 100,000 who had died already. ... What's more, hundreds of thousands more are at risk," he told British Broadcasting Corp. television.


    The cyclone and powerful tidal sea surge ripped across the low-lying delta a week ago, with winds topping 120 mph.

    The country's ruling junta Sunday raised its official tally of the dead to more than 28,000, though humanitarian experts say the toll could run much higher. Thousands remain missing.

    The country's main airport in Yangon cannot handle more than five aid flights a day, when it should be taking in at least one every hour, said PLAN, a London-based children's aid group.

    "Logistically, the situation looks bleak," it said in a statement. "In short, they have one congested airport, ill equipped to deal with the influx of cargo, no port, restricted fuel and no trucks."

    Visa troubles

    The U.N. World Food Program said Sunday that only one visa had been approved out of 16 requested. The Federal Way-based aid group World Vision said it had requested 20 visas but received two. Medecins Sans Frontieres, the French medical aid group, said it was still awaiting approval of dozens of visa applications for technical-support-staff aid coordinators.

    Paul Risley, a spokesman for the World Food Program (WFP), said the volume of aid allowed by the Myanmar junta into the country amounted to one-tenth of what was needed.

    Heavy showers were forecast for the coming week, further complicating delivery of aid that is still scarcely reaching victims in the Irrawaddy delta.

    With conditions in the delta increasingly desperate, many survivors began besieging small towns, searching for help. In the town of Laputta, which lost 85 percent of its buildings, about 28 makeshift camps have sprung up.

    Hundreds of survivors crowded the floor of a monastery's open-air hall, the sound of hungry children wailing. Supplies are limited, and many people tried to sleep sitting up because of lack of space.

    Pain Na Kon, a tiny nearby village of just 300, was completely obliterated. The only 12 known survivors huddled together in a tent set up in a rice field, sharing a small portion of biscuits and watery soup handed out at a monastery.

    "Time is really of the essence. Already we have seen a diarrhea outbreak in the very urban areas of [Rangoon], and with cyclones you'd usually see pneumonia soon as well, and also malaria because of the standing water," said Naida Pasion, the Myanmar program director for Save the Children, which maintains a staff of 500 in the country.

    The WFP, which Friday accused authorities of impounding planeloads of emergency food, said cargo and materials sent since then had been released and sent to the disaster zones. The Red Cross also sent a planeload of relief supplies Sunday, including body bags.

    Yet a week on, most survivors have not yet received any help because of the lack of supplies and logistical difficulties.

    "Beyond the main arterial roads, it's a massive challenge, not only because the floodwaters are still there, but also because even when they are not, it's an extremely difficult to navigate," said Marcus Prior, a WFP spokesman.

    The Myanmar army insists that it can manage the massive relief operation and has rebuffed offers of assistance from the U.S. and countries in the region.

    Military analysts warn that Myanmar's army has neither adequate equipment nor training to cope with the crisis, and its insistence on going it alone could cost many lives.
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    It's almost as if the military is using the opportunity to commit genocide on its own civilians.
    Say it ain't so...
    Last edited by mistere; 05.12.08 at 02:02 PM.

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    What did these people do to deserve this?

    New storm head toward cyclone-devastated Myanmar
    2 hours ago

    YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Another powerful storm headed toward Myanmar's cyclone-devastated delta on Wednesday and the U.N. warned that inadequate relief efforts could lead to a second wave of deaths among the estimated 2 million survivors.

    The country's junta told visiting Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, however, that it is in control of the relief operations and doesn't need foreign experts.

    Samak visited a government relief center in Yangon and told reporters after returning to Bangkok that the junta has given him the "guarantee" that there are no disease outbreaks and no starvation among the cyclone survivors.

    "They have their own team to cope with the situation," Samak said, citing Myanmar Prime Minister Lt. Gen. Thein Sein. "From what I have seen I am impressed with their management."

    International agencies say bottlenecks, poor logistics, limited infrastructure and the military government's refusal to allow foreign aid workers have left most of the delta's survivors living in miserable conditions without food or clean water. The government's efforts have been criticized as woefully slow.

    The U.S. military's Joint Typhoon Warning Center said there is a good chance that "a significant tropical cyclone" will form within the next 24 hours and head across the Irrawaddy delta area.

    The area was pulverized by Cyclone Nargis on May 3, leaving at least 34,273 dead and 27,838 missing, according to the government. The U.N. says the death toll could exceed 100,000. An estimated 2 million survivors of the storm are still in need of emergency aid. But U.N. agencies and other groups have been able to reach only 270,000 people so far.

    Dr. Thawat Sutharacha of Thailand's Public Health Ministry said Wednesday the junta has given permission to a Thai medical team to go to the cyclone-hit delta.

    If the team is able to go as scheduled on Friday, it would be the first foreign aid group to work in the ravaged Irrawaddy delta.

    The junta has said that it will allow 160 relief workers from neighboring countries to come to Myanmar, but it is not clear if they include the Thai medics or whether they will be allowed to travel to the delta.

    "The government has a responsibility to assist their people in the event of a natural disaster," said Amanda Pitt, a spokeswoman for the U.N. Office for Humanitarian Affairs.

    "We are here to do what we can and facilitate their efforts and scale up their response. It is clearly inadequate and we do not want to see a second wave of death as a result of that not being scaled up," she said.

    The news of a second cyclone was not broadcast by Myanmar's state-controlled media. But Yangon residents picked up the news on foreign broadcasts and on the Internet.

    "I prayed to the Lord Buddha, 'please save us from another cyclone. Not just me but all of Myanmar,'" said Min Min, a rickshaw driver, whose house was destroyed in Cyclone Nargis. Min Min, his wife and three children now live on their wrecked premises under plastic sheets.

    "Another cyclone will be a disaster because our relief center is already overcrowded. I am very worried," said Tun Zaw, 68, another Yangon resident who is living in a government relief center.

    Prof. Johnny Chan, a tropical cyclone expert with City University of Hong Kong, said the new cyclone would likely not be as severe as Nargis because it is already close to land, and cyclones need to be over sea to gain full strength.

    "There will be a lot of rain but the winds will not be as strong," he told The Associated Press.

    Getting to the worst-affected areas was getting more and more difficult, and the impending storm was expected to compound the misery of the survivors.

    "They are already weak," said Pitt, the U.N. spokeswoman. A new storm will impact "people's ability to survive and cope with what happened to them ... this is terrible."

    Soldiers have barred foreign aid workers from reaching cyclone survivors in the hardest-hit areas, but gave access to an International Red Cross representative who returned to Yangon on Tuesday.

    Bridget Gardner, the agency's country head, described tremendous devastation but also selflessness, as survivors joined in the rescue efforts.

    "People who have come here having lost their homes in rural areas have volunteered to work as first aiders. They are humanitarian heroes," said Gardner.

    Gardner's team visited five locations in the Irrawaddy delta. In one of them, they saw 10,000 people living without shelter as rain tumbled from the sky.

    "The town of Labutta is unrecognizable. I have been here before and now with the extent of the damage and the crowds of displaced people, it's a different place," Gardner was quoted as saying in a statement by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

    In Labutta and elsewhere she said volunteers were giving medical aid to hundreds of people a day even though "they have no homes to go back to when they finish."

    Some survivors of Cyclone Nargis were reportedly getting spoiled or poor-quality food, rather than nutrition-rich biscuits sent by international donors, adding to suspicions that the junta may be misappropriating foreign aid.

    The military, which has ruled since 1962, has taken control of most supplies sent by other countries, including the United States, which began its third day of aid delivery Wednesday as five more giant C-130 transport planes loaded with emergency supplies headed to Myanmar.

    Lt. Col. Douglas Powell, a spokesman for what has been dubbed operation Caring Relief, said a total of 197,080 pounds of provisions have been sent into Myanmar on the eight U.S. military flights that have been cleared to go.

    Most of the provisions have been blankets, mosquito nets, plastic sheets and water.

    As the U.S. military's effort to expand its relief effort appeared to make major headway, Myanmar also agreed to attend an emergency meeting of Southeast Asian foreign ministers next week to discuss problems in getting foreign aid the country, Asian diplomats said Wednesday.

    Diplomats from the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which includes Myanmar, were crafting the agenda for the meeting to be held Monday in Singapore, said two Manila-based Southeast Asian diplomats knowledgeable about preparations for the gathering.

    Singapore, which currently heads the ASEAN bloc, organized the meeting after getting a nod from Myanmar, which has committed to sending its foreign minister, according to one of the diplomats. Both spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to media.

    The European Union's top aid official said Wednesday he is not opposed to the idea of air-dropping aid in Myanmar but does not think it will work.

    "I am not against solutions which can help the people but ... I think it will not be the best solution," EU Development Commissioner Louis Michel told reporters in Bangkok when asked to comment on suggestions about unilateral air drops to circumvent the junta's restrictions on international aid.
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