Myanmar cyclone toll hits 15,000, official says

Myanmar cyclone toll hits 15,000, official says

 MSNBC News Services

updated 11:49 p.m. ET May 5, 2008

YANGON, Myanmar – At least 15,000 people were killed in the Myanmar cyclone and the toll was likely to rise as officials made contact with the worst-hit areas, the military government’s foreign minister said on Tuesday.

Foreign Minister Nyan Win said on state television that 10,000 people had died in just one town, Bogalay, as he gave the first detailed account of what is emerging as the worst cyclone to hit Asia since 1991, when 143,000 people were killed in Bangladesh.

“In Irrawaddy Division the death toll amounts to more than 10,000,” he said in a state television broadcast, in which he also said the military government welcomed outside assistance, an unprecedented green light to governments and aid agencies who want to help with the recovery.[<iframe height=”339″ width=”425″ src=”http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22425001/vp/24466441#24466441” frameborder=”0″ scrolling=”no”></iframe>]

“The missing is about 3,000. In Bogalay, the death toll is about 10,000,” the minister said in the broadcast monitored outside of the Southeast Asian country.

The United Nations and the former Burma’s neighbors are scrambling to deliver food, clean water and shelter to survivors after the junta, the latest face of 46 years of unbroken military rule, gave them permission.

The total left homeless by the storm’s 120 mph winds and 12-foot storm surge is in the several hundred thousands, United Nations aid officials say, and could run into the millions.

In the biggest city, Yangon, people were lining up to share bottled water and there was still no electricity, four days after Tropical Cyclone Nargis struck the Irrawaddy delta, rice bowl for the country’s 53 million people.

“Generators are selling very well under the generals,” said one man waiting outside a shop, reflecting some of the resentment on the streets to what many described as a slow warning and response to the cyclone.

Very few soldiers were seen clearing debris and trees, except at major intersections, residents in the former capital said. Monks and residents, using what tools they had, cut trees.

“The regime has lost a golden opportunity to send the soldiers as soon as the storm stopped to win the heart and soul of people,” said a retired civil servant.

Myanmar officials, after an initial count of a few hundred dead, announced dramatically higher tolls on Monday in meetings with international aid agencies and diplomats.

Generals accept aid
The last major storm to ravage Asia was Cyclone Sidr, which killed 3,300 people in Bangladesh last November.

The scale of the disaster drew a rare acceptance of outside help from the diplomatically isolated generals, who spurned such approaches in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

The U.S. Embassy in Myanmar authorized the release of $250,000 in immediate emergency aid, and first lady Laura Bush, a critic of the junta, promised more would be forthcoming.

However, she urged Myanmar’s military rulers to first accept a U.S. disaster response team that so far has been kept out, saying it would clear the way for broader aid.

In a statement, Bush criticized Myanmar’s state-run media and said it “failed to issue a timely warning to citizens in the storm’s path.”

“The government misled people. They could have warned us about the severity of the coming cyclone so we could be better prepared,” said Thin Thin, a grocery store owner.

Before the cyclone hit, the government had only put out “storm news,” saying the cyclone would travel at about 30 miles an hour, whereas it struck with winds of almost four times that speed.

The secretive Myanmar military, which has ruled for 46 years, has moved even further into the shadows in the last six months due to widespread outrage at its bloody crackdown on protests led by Buddhist monks in September.

After getting a “careful green light” from the government, the U.N. said it was pulling out all the stops to send in emergency aid such as food, clean water, blankets and plastic sheeting.

“The U.N. will begin preparing assistance now to be delivered and transported to Myanmar as quickly as possible,” World Food Program spokesman Paul Risley said. The organization has pre-positioned 500 tons of food in Yangon and plans to bring in more relief supplies, said Elisabeth Byrs, spokeswoman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

 

 

The U.N. office in Yangon said there was an urgent need for plastic sheeting, water purification tablets, cooking equipment, mosquito nets, health kits and food.

Video
  First person account
May 5: Jens Orback, who was in Myanmar when the cyclone hit, describes what he saw.

MSNBC

Laura Blank, spokeswoman for World Vision, said two assessment teams have been sent to the hardest-hit areas to determine the most urgent needs.

“This is probably the most devastating natural disaster in Southeast Asia since the tsunami,” Blank said, referring to the 2004 disaster that killed around 230,000 people in 12 Indian Ocean nations. “There are a lot of important needs, but the most important is clean water.”

Myanmar’s neighbors also offered assistance.

Two Indian naval ships loaded with food, tents, blankets, clothing and medicines would sail for Yangon soon, India’s Ministry of External Affairs said.

Thailand announced that it would fly some aid in Tuesday.

Largest city hit hard
Myanmar is not known to have an adequate disaster warning system and many rural buildings are constructed of thatch, bamboo and other materials easily destroyed by fierce storms.

The cyclone blew roofs off hospitals and schools and cut electricity in Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon. Older citizens said they had never seen the 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.

At the city’s notorious Insein prison, soldiers and police killed 36 prisoners to quell a riot that started when inmates were herded into a large hall and started a fire to try to keep warm, a Thailand-based human rights group said.

State television showed military and police units on rescue and cleanup operations in Yangon, but residents complained the junta’s response was weak.

“Where are the soldiers and police? They were very quick and aggressive when there were protests in the streets last year,” a retired government worker told Reuters, referring to protests led by Buddhist monks last year that were swiftly crushed.

Hotels and richer families were using private generators but only sparingly, given the soaring price of fuel.

Many stayed away from their jobs, either because they could not find transportation or because they had to seek food and shelter for their families.

“Without my daily earning, just survival has become a big problem for us,” said Tin Hla, who normally repairs umbrellas at a roadside stand.

With his home destroyed by the storm, Tin Hla said he has had to place his family of five into one of the monasteries that have offered temporary shelter to those left homeless.

His entire morning was taken up with looking for water and some food to buy, ending up with three chicken eggs that cost double the normal price.

Vote to go ahead Saturday
Despite the havoc wreaked by Nargis, the military government indicated that a referendum on the country’s draft constitution would proceed as planned on May 10.

“It’s only a few days left before the coming referendum and people are eager to cast their vote,” the state-owned newspaper Myanma Ahlin said Monday.

At the meeting with diplomats, Relief Minister Maj. Gen. Maung Maung Swe said the vote could be postponed by “a few days” in the worst-affected areas. However, the foreign minister intervened to say the matter would be decided by the official referendum commission.

Pro-democracy groups in the country and many international critics have branded the constitution as merely a tool for the military’s continued grip on power.

Should the junta be seen as failing disaster victims, voters who already blame the regime for ruining the economy and squashing democracy could take out their frustrations at the ballot box.

The secretive military, bunkered in their isolated new capital of Naypyidaw, 240 miles north of Yangon, has ruled for 46 years and has been shunned by Western governments after a violent crackdown on Buddhist monk-led protests last September.

The last major storm to ravage Asia was Cyclone Sidr, which killed 3,300 people in Bangladesh last November.

YANGON, Myanmar (CNN) — The death toll from the Myanmar cyclone is more than 15,000 people, Myanmar’s government has said, with at least 10,000 killed in the township of Bogalay alone, according to the Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua.

art.jpg

Buddhist monks move branches from an uprooted tree blocking a street in Yangon.

 Survivors were facing their third night without electricity in the aftermath of the historic cyclone that also clogged roads with thousands of downed trees.

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 death toll of more than 15,000, official sources told Xinhua, makes the weekend cyclone the deadliest natural disaster to hit Myanmar in recent history, according to figures compiled by a U.N.-funded disaster database.

art.myanmar.boat.gi.jpgThe toll eclipses that from a 1926 wind storm that killed about 2,700 people in the country, according to the database.

The assessment is bleak, Kyi Minn of the international aid group World Vision told CNN Tuesday.

“It could be worse than (the) tsunami,” Minn said, comparing the cyclone’s impact on Myanmar to the damage caused there following the tsunami that struck the region in late 2004.

That tsunami was triggered by a a massive earthquake off the coast of Indonesia. It killed more than 150,000 across the region.

Minn said clean drinking water, food, medicine and shelter are all at a premium in southern Myanmar.

The government of neighboring Thailand said Myanmar’s leaders had already requested food, medical supplies and construction equipment, AP reported. The first plane-load of supplies was due to arrive Tuesday, a Thai spokesman said.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement he was “deeply saddened by the loss of life and the destruction suffered by the people of Myanmar” and pledged to mobilize international aid and assistance as needed.

A United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination team is on stand-by to assist the government in responding to humanitarian needs if required, the statement said.

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 (240 km/h) an hour winds throughout Friday night and Saturday morning, dumping 20 inches of rain. Video Watch how the cyclone crippled Yangon »

Residents of Yangon trudged through knee-deep swirling brown waters Monday as the delta city remained mostly without electricity and phone connections.

The U.S. Embassy in Myanmar has issued a “disaster declaration” in the country and authorized the release of $250,000 for cyclone relief efforts, Deputy State Department spokesman Tom Casey said Monday.

A disaster relief team is standing by, Casey said, but the Myanmar government had not given permission for the team to enter the country.

U.S. first lady Laura Bush blasted the military government, saying the lack of warning before the deadly cyclone hit was the latest example of “the junta’s failure to meet its people’s basic needs.”

Hakan Tongkul, with the United Nation’s World Food Programme, said residents in Yangon needed urgent assistance. “This has pushed people to the edge. All that they have has been blown away.” Video Watch the cyclone hammer Yangon »

Michael Annear, regional disaster manger for the Red Cross, said the group was helping provide safe drinking water.

Relief agencies met at the United Nations’ Bangkok headquarters Monday to coordinate their response to the disaster. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said it had released 200,000 Swiss Francs (about $190,000) to help with the aftermath.

A state of emergency was declared Sunday across five regions: the city of Yangon, Irrawaddy, Pegu and the states of Karen and Mon. All flights to Yangon, the former capital, were canceled.

“Most Burmese with whom we’ve been in touch report they lost their roofs, although so far everyone we have been able to contact reports that they and their families are safe,” said a Yangon-based diplomat who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. Photo See photos of the destruction »

Most telephone and cell phone service was down in Yangon, a city of about 6.5 million people, according to Dan Rivers, a CNN correspondent in the country.

In some places, the price of fuel had quadrupled to $10 a gallon. Even with that price lines for gas stretched around the block and some sought to buy gas on the black market.

The main water supply has been cut in many areas and power lines are down, Rivers reported.

Earlier Monday, an editor for an independent Myanmar newspaper based in Thailand told CNN that people in the Southeast Asian nation were angry over the response to the disaster by the ruling military junta.

“People are very angry with the slow response coming from the military government,” said Aung Zaw of Irrawaddy news magazine. Video Listen to Irrawaddy journalist discuss the situation in Myanmar »

Khin Maung Win, a spokesman for the Democratic Voice of Burma — a broadcast media group run by opposition expatriates — said the whole of the delta region had been affected and entire villages had disappeared.

Pictures from inside the country showed a cyclone-ravaged region with tin huts crushed under trees. Bicyclists navigated around large branches that littered the deserted roads.

A man with his pant legs rolled up waded through knee-deep water and strained to clear massive limbs that were blocking the entrance to a house.

Despite widespread damage, Myanmar’s junta plans to proceed with a referendum on the country’s constitution on May 10 — the fourth step of a “seven-step road map to democracy” — according to state-run media reports. Learn more about Myanmar »

A critic of Myanmar’s government said the referendum must be postponed.

Myanmar cyclone death toll at 10,000

Published: Monday 05 May 2008 15:03 UTC

Nay Pyi Taw – Myanmar’s military government now puts at 10,000 the number of people known to have been killed at the weekend by cyclone Nargis. Around 3,000 others are reported missing. The authorities, normally opposed to any foreign presence, have now also accepted offers of foreign aid.

According to the United Nations, tens of thousands have been made homeless and hundreds of thousands are without clean drinking water. Five regions in the southwestern delta region have been declared disaster areas. Rescue operations are still getting under way as many roads are blocked and power has been knocked out in many areas. The authorities say a referendum on a new constitution due to be held on Saturday will go ahead as planned.

Myanmar believes at least 10,000 dead

in cyclone – diplomat

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Myanmar’s military government has a provisional death toll of 10,000 from this weekend’s devastating cyclone, with another 3,000 missing, a diplomat said on Monday after a briefing from Foreign Minister Nyan Win.

 

“The basic message was that they believe the provisional death toll was about 10,000 with 3,000 missing,” a diplomat present at the meeting told Reuters in Bangkok.

Myanmar official death toll

already reached 10,000 after cyclone

 

 

 

 

 

Myanmar death toll ‘could reach 10,000’

YANGON, Myanmar (CNN) — Almost 4,000 people have died and another 3,000 remain missing in Myanmar as a result of this weekend’s devastating cyclone, state media reported Monday amid fears that the death toll could continue to soar.

 Diplomats summoned to a government briefing on Monday said the foreign minister had acknowledged that as many as 10,000 could be dead 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 government of neighboring Thailand said Myanmar’s leaders had already requested food, medical supplies and construction equipment, AP reported. The first plane-load of supplies was due to arrive Tuesday, a Thai spokesman said.

United Nations Secretary-General ban Ki-moon said in a statement he was “deeply saddened by the loss of life and the destruction suffered by the people of Myanmar” and pledged to mobilize international aid and assistance as needed.

“As a first step, a United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (team) has been organized and is on stand-by to assist the Government in responding to humanitarian needs if required, the statement said.

Scenes of the destruction showed extensive flooding, boats lilting 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.

“After about noon, the sky cleared and everybody came out and were just stunned,” said Shari Villarosa, U.S. Charge D’ Affaires in Yangon. “People on my compound who had been there for about 15 years say they had not seen anything like this here, ever.”

Residents of Yangon trudged through knee-deep swirling brown waters Monday as the delta city remained mostly without electricity and phone connections. Video Watch the cyclone hammer Yangon »

A spokesman for the Red Cross said the emergency aid group was working with its Myanmar agency to provide drinking water, temporary shelters and blankets and warned that urgent action was needed to limit outbreaks of disease.

“I think one of the biggest needs right now is to stave off disease,” said spokesman Eric Porterfield. “We will be helping with the distribution of clean drinking water and setting up shelters.”

Relief agencies met at the United Nations’ Bangkok headquarters Monday to coordinate their response to the disaster. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said it had released 200,000 Swiss Francs (about $190,000) to help with the aftermath.

The U.S. aid group World Vision also said it had responded to a government request for assistance.

“The biggest need is getting water for the two million affected people,” World Vision spokesman Casey Calamusa told CNN, adding that it was rare for the government to ask for help. The ruling junta under sharp criticism from many nations for using force to suppress pro-democracy protests last year. Learn A state of emergency was declared Sunday across five regions: the city of Yangon, Irrawaddy, Pegu and the states of Karen and Mon. All flights to Yangon, the former capital, were canceled.

“Most Burmese with whom we’ve been in touch report they lost their roofs, although so far everyone we have been able to contact reports that they and their families are safe,” said a Yangon-based diplomat who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Earlier Monday, an editor for an independent Myanmar newspaper based in Thailand told CNN that people in the Southeast Asian nation were angry over the response to the disaster by the ruling military junta.

“People are very angry with the slow response coming from the military government,” said Aung Zaw of Irrawaddy news magazine.

Zaw said communication was down across large areas of the country. He also said the casualty figures could rise.

“Very few people have access to these areas to estimate damage and how many people have been killed.”Video Listen to Irrawaddy journalist discuss the situation in Myanmar »

Khin Maung Win, a spokesman for the Democratic Voice of Burma — a broadcast media group run by opposition expatriates — said the whole of the delta region had been affected and entire villages had disappeared.

Pictures from inside the country showed a cyclone-ravaged region with tin huts crushed under trees. Bicyclists navigated around large branches that littered the deserted roads.

A man with his pant legs rolled up waded through knee-deep water and strained to clear massive limbs that were blocking the entrance to a house.

“The cleanup is beginning, but this will take a long time,” the diplomat said. “The damage around town is intense.” Photo See photos of the destruction »

“Fuel is not easily available. International emergency assistance would be needed within seven days. There is no food for eating,” Win said.

Food prices — already rising steeply — climbed further. Long lines could be seen at gas stations in Yangon. Many of the stations were operating on generators. At one gas station more than 100 buses lined up to refill.

“International emergency assistance would be needed within seven days,” the diplomat said.

Despite widespread damage, Myanmar’s junta plans to proceed with a referendum on the country’s constitution on May 10 — the fourth step of a “seven-step road map to democracy” — according to state-run media reports.

The government has said elections would be held in 2010 to choose a representative government to replace the military junta.

An official at the Myanmar consulate in Canberra, Australia, said she believed the referendum would go on as scheduled. “We haven’t had contrary information,” she said.

But the announcement was met with skepticism from pro-democracy opposition leaders.

“It looks as though it would be impossible to have a referendum on Saturday in those areas,” Larry Jagan, a freelance journalist who has covered Myanmar affairs for many years, told CNN.

“The question is, will the regime decide to postpone the referendum in those particular areas, and hold it in other parts of the country?. Or will they go ahead and hold it anyway, and do the best they can?”

Myanmar last held multi-party elections in 1990, when Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy handily won. The military junta ignored the results. Suu Kyi, who is currently under house arrest, has been in detention without trial for more than 12 of the past 18 years.

 

Myanmar cyclone death toll reaches 3,969:

5 May 2008 – YANGON(AFP) – The death toll from the cyclone that hit Myanmar over the weekend has reached 3,969, state television said Monday, warning that thousands more may have been killed in the disaster.

A further 2,129 people were officially listed as missing, it said, adding tens of thousands more may have been killed in the remote towns of Bogalay and Labutta in the Ayeyawaddy (Irrawaddy) delta.

 

 Death Toll 351 in Burma Cyclone in Yangon Myanmar

Huliq.com - Citizen Journalism

This image provided by NASA’s MODIS

instrument on board the Terra satellite

shows Cyclone Nargis as it approaches

the coast on the east of Bangladesh in

Bay of Bengal (i.e. Burma)

351 people have been reported dead after a cyclone hit Burma, which is also known as Myanmar. As a result it has been declared by the Burmese government that five states are currently disaster areas.

A diplomat in the area spoke to the Reuters news agency, giving them a description of the scene. He said that the area around him looked like a ‘war zone’ as a result of the cyclone.

 

An official from the United Nations also commented on the situation. “It’s a bad situation. Almost all the houses are smashed. People are in a terrible situation,” he said.

Another UN representative also spoke on the incident. He reported that “The Irrawaddy delta was hit extremely hard not only because of the wind and rain but because of the storm surge.” The Daily Telegraph , a UK newspaper, reported that the food price in Burma could be affected by this incident. Source: Wikinews.

Myanmar: Situation Report No. 1

Cyclone Nargis, 04 May, 2008 

Source: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)

Myanmar: Tropical Cyclone Nargis Interactive Map

This situation report is based on information received from the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office, Myanmar, UN agencies and media sources.

Situation

1. Category 3 Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar on 2 May. The cyclone made landfall in the Irrawaddy delta region, approximately 250 km southwest of Yangon, at around 16:00. The storm then tracked inland in an ENE direction, directly hitting the capital Yangon itself late the same night. Latest reports indicate that five areas have been affected: Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) Division, Yangon Division, Bago Division, Kayin (Karen) State, Kayah State and Mon State.

2. Detailed information on the impact has not been available due to downed communications and blocked roads. Information on the situation outside Yangon is even more limited, including in the southwest of the delta region, which is believed to be the worst-hit area and was affected both by strong winds and a sizable storm surge. The authorities have indicated that many villages in this area have been completely flattened. The intensity of the storm decreased significantly as it moved through Kayin State and towards the Thai border.

3. The cyclone has caused widespread devastation in Yangon. Winds of over 190 km/hr tore down trees and power lines, while accompanying rain caused flooding in many areas. Telecommunications lines were cut. Buildings have been badly damaged throughout the city, and it expected that significant numbers have been left without adequate shelter. Electricity is unlikely to be restored for several days. Water supplies are also likely to be a major problem. Many roads remain impassable, either due to flooding or fallen debris and the airport has been closed until further notice.

4. The authorities have reported a total of 138 confirmed deaths. The numbers in need of assistance are expected to be sizable.

5. Urgent needs are expected to be plastic sheeting, water purification tablets, cooking sets, mosquito nets, emergency health kits and food. Fuel shortages have also already been reported. Determining the impact in areas outside Yangon has been even more difficult, though it can be assumed to be critical, with shelter and safe water being the principal immediate needs.

National Response

6. The Government has established an Emergency Committee headed by the Prime Minister. Five central and southern regions – Yangon, Ayeyarwady, Bago, Mon and Kayin states – have all been declared disaster areas. The authorities inform to have deployed military and police units for rescue, rehabilitation and cleanup operations in Yangon.

7. No formal request has yet been issued for international assistance, though there are indications that such assistance may be welcomed. UN support was offered to the Ministry of Social Welfare by the RC ai last week. The acting RC/HC a.i. met today with the Deputy Minister for Social Welfare to discuss possible support by the IASC partners in-country. Another meeting is scheduled for tomorrow.

International Response

8. OCHA is looking into the possibility of deploying an UNDAC team. UNOSAT has been activated. CRD has been in contact with the Permanent Representative to the UN who has indicated that he would keep in contact with OCHA for any further developments on his side.

9. UNICEF will deploy five assessment teams tomorrow (to Yangon, Pathein and Bago). The Myanmar Red Cross Society will send out five teams tomorrow (to Yangon, Ayeyarwady, Bago East, Bago West, Mon and Kayin). IFRC in Yangon was due to assess damage in the city today (4 May) and national volunteers are already gathering information.

10. The UNDMT and IASC partners in the country have established a cluster system as part of an ongoing process of contingency planning. They shared information last week on preparedness levels. WFP has 500 metric tonnes of food in Yangon, and is hoping to move further supplies, as well as offices in a box and possibly generators stocked in Cambodia. UNICEF and WHO also have pre—positioned stocks in place.

11. The IASC partners are due to meet at 10:00 am tomorrow (5 May). A meeting with donors in country will take place directly afterwards.

12. The UNCT in Myanmar is examining the need for a Flash Appeal and for an application for CERF funds. The extent to which funds are required will become clearer as more detailed information on the cyclone’s impact becomes available.

13. The Regional IASC cluster leads will meet in Bangkok to discuss next steps. Telecoms Sans Frontiers is prepared to deploy from Bangkok.

 Myanmar cyclone claims 241 lives

PhotoMore than 241 people were killed when cyclone Nargis tore through military-run Myanmar this weekend, an information ministry official said on Sunday.

”According to the latest information we have, altogether 19 people were killed in Yangon division and then about 222 people killed in Ayeyawaddy division,” the official said.

Myanmar cyclone claims 241 livesNargis made landfall around the mouth of the Ayeyawaddy (Irrawaddy) river, about 220 kilometres southwest of Yangon, late Friday before hitting the country’s economic hub of Yangon.

The cyclone ripped down power lines, battered buildings and left uprooted trees and other debris scattered across the streets of Yangon.

Five central and southern regions and states – Yangon, Ayeyawaddy, Bago, Mon and Karen have been declared disaster areas, the official said.

Police and army have been deployed throughout the worst hits areas to start the clean-up operation.

The information ministry official said that seven empty boats had sunk in the country’s main port, while Yangon’s international airport was closed until further notice with flights diverted to the city of Mandalay.

The storm cut most electricity and telecommunications in the nation just a week before a crucial referendum on its new constitution, the first polling in Myanmar since general elections in 1990.

Cyclone wreaks havoc in Myanmar 

Yangon, Irrawaddy Delta, Bago as well as Karen and Mon states were all heavily damaged by Nargis.

 
 
 

 

 
Several regions in Myanmar have been declared disaster zones after a tropical cyclone, packing winds of up to 190kmph speeds, destroyed hundreds of houses and knocked out electricity.
 
At least four deaths have been officially confirmed since Cyclone Nargis hit Yangon, the commercial capital, at about 5am local time (2200 GMT) on Saturday.

The military-run Myawady television station said on Sunday that emergency had been declared in the five states.

 State television showed pictures of Ten Sin, the prime minister, convening an emergency meeting of the military government.

 Extensive damage
 
There were reports of extensive damage around the country.
Witnesses in Yangon said that hundreds of houses had their roofs blown off and the storm cut electricity as well as phone service in much of the city.Local residents ventured out on Sunday to buy construction materials to repair their homes.

 

 

The worst hit area was the Irrawaddy Delta. Villagers said half the buildings in many towns were damaged or destroyed.

 
 
Tens of thousands of people were made homeless in the Irrawaddy Delta last August after unusually heavy rains triggered floods in the low-lying region.
 
Some people interviewed said that the government had done little so far to help with the clean-up.
 
“It’s a bad situation. Almost all the houses are smashed. People are in a terrible situation,” a UN official in Yangon, who requested anonymity, told the Associated Press news agency.
 
 “All the roads are blocked. There is no water. There is no electricity.”
 
‘Very uncertain’
 
Speaking on the situation in Myanmar from Bangkok, the Thai capital, Tony Craig, of the World Food Programme, told Al Jazeera: “The situation now is very uncertain [regarding] the exact extent of the calamity, but obviously this is a severe event.”
 
“If you are in a state where the food situation or malnutrition is a problem and you [receive] a shock to your security, obviously that will be a problem.
 
In Video

Cyclone batters Myanmar’s main city, Yangon

“We are prepared to act in these situations – we have put our global response capability on standby.”

The storm was initially forecast to move northeast towards Thailand, which warned that flash floods could hit the north, centre and east of the country.
 
An official at Yangon International Airport said on Saturday that all incoming flights had been diverted to the second city of Mandalay, and all departures from Yangon had been cancelled.

An official at Thai Airways in Bangkok said the airline planned to resume flights on Sunday.

                                                                                                                                
New constitution
 

The cyclone comes at a delicate time for Myanmar, which is scheduled to hold a referendum on May 10 on the country’s military-backed draft constitution.

 
A military-managed national convention was held intermittently for 14 years to lay down guidelines for the country’s new constitution.
 
The ruling generals’ handpicked delegates included those representing workers.
 
The new constitution is supposed to be followed in 2010 by a general election.
 
Both votes are elements of a “roadmap to democracy” drawn up by the generals, who have been in power for two decades.

 Feature: Daily life partly resumes in cyclone-hit Myanmar former capital

www.chinaview.cn 2008-05-04 18:33:08 Editor: Gao Ying

YANGON, May 4 (Xinhua) — A minor part of the daily life started to resume in Myanmar’s former capital of Yangon Sunday, the first day in the aftermath of the deadly cyclone Nargis strike the country for 10 hours from Saturday night to Saturday noon.

AP Top News

 

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Myanmar’s state-run television is reporting that more than 240 people have died from a powerful cyclone, a U.N official says. Chris Kaye, the U.N’s acting humanitarian coordinator, said state-run television reported that 243 people have died from Tropical Cyclone Nargis.

 

 Hundreds feared dead in Myanmar cyclone

 BANGKOK, Thailand (CNN) — Hundreds of people are feared dead after a tropical cyclone with winds up to 150 miles (241 km) per hour slammed into Myanmar over the weekend.

art.cyclone.tree.cnn.jpg

The powerful storm toppled this tree in Yangon, Myanmar, on Saturday.

“We believe hundreds of people are dead,” said Khin Maung Win with the Democratic Voice of Burma — a broadcast media group run by opposition expatriates.

“The entire lower Burma is affected. In some areas, entire villages disappeared.”

The ruling military junta put the death toll at about 200, according to media reports. Myanmar was formerly known as Burma.

The ruling junta declared a state of emergency in five regions: the city of Yangon, Irrawaddy, Pegu and the states of Karen and Mon. All flights to Yangon, the former capital, were canceled. Cyclone Nargis tore off roofs, uprooted trees and downed power lines. art.cyclone.road.cnn.jpg

The storm ripped through the sprawling river delta city of Yangon for more than 10 hours — from Friday night until Saturday noon, said Burma Democratic Concern (BDC).

The activist group opposed the military rule in Myanmar, a country formerly known as Burma.

By Sunday, many parts of the city were without electricity. Phone connections were also down in most areas, making it difficult to assess the extent of the damage.

“Most Burmese with whom we’ve been in touch report they lost their roofs, although so far everyone we have been able to contact reports that they and their families are safe,” said a Yangon-based diplomat who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Pictures from inside the country showed a cyclone-ravaged region with tin huts crushed under the weight of trees. Bicyclists navigated around large branches that littered the deserted roads.

A man with his pant legs rolled up waded through knee-deep water and strained to clear massive limbs that were blocking the entrance to a house.

art.cyclone.house.cnn.jpg“The cleanup is beginning, but this will take a long time,” the diplomat said. “The damage around town is intense.”

“Fuel is not easily available. International emergency assistance would be needed within seven days. There is no food for eating,” said Win of the Democratic Voice of Burma.

The junta has scheduled a May 10 referendum on a new constitution for the country, which came under sharp criticism from many nations for using force to suppress pro-democracy protests last year.

5 Myanmar regions are disaster zones, 4 dead after cyclone

By AYE AYE WIN in AP

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Five regions in Myanmar were declared disaster zones Sunday after Tropical Cyclone Nargis smashed hundreds of houses, knocked out electricity and left at least four people dead.

The military run Myaddy television station said Yangon, Irrawaddy, Bago, Karen and Mon states were all heavily damaged by Saturday’s cyclone, which packed winds of up to 120 mph.

 

Witnesses in Yangon said hundreds of houses had roofs blown off and the storm cut electricity, while the state-owned newspaper New Light of Myanmar reported Sunday that the international airport in Yangon remains shut down.

Domestic flights have been diverted to the airport in Mandalay, it said.

Three people were killed Friday when their boat capsized as they crossed a Yangon canal, witnesses said, and a fourth person died Saturday after a tree fell on his house.

“It’s a bad situation. Almost all the houses are smashed. People are in a terrible situation,” said a United Nations official in Yangon, who requested anonymity because she was not authorized to speak to a reporter.

“All the roads are blocked. There is no water. There is no electricity,” she said.

Casualties had been expected after Nargis hit Myanmar’s commercial capital at about 5 a.m. local time Saturday.

Neither the U.N. nor the government has provided a death toll or damage assessment, though a more detail picture is expected to emerge after officials reach remote areas in the coming days.

Yangon residents ventured out Sunday to buy construction materials to repair their homes. Some people interviewed expressed anger that the military led government had done little so far to help with the cleanup.

 

“Where are all those uniformed people who are always ready to beat civilians?” said one man, who refused to be identified for fear of retribution. “They should come out in full force and help clean up the areas and restore electricity.”

The cyclone came at a delicate time for Myanmar, which is scheduled to hold a referendum May 10 on the country’s military backed draft constitution.

A military managed national convention was held intermittently for 14 years to lay down guidelines for the country’s new constitution. The junta’s hand-picked delegates included those representing workers.

The new constitution is supposed to be followed in 2010 by a general election. Both votes are elements of a “roadmap to democracy” drawn up by the junta, which has been in power for two decades.

Opposition parties have criticized the draft constitution as designed to cement military power and have urged citizens to vote no.

 

Myanmar cyclone flattens two delta towns: media

YANGON (Reuters) – Cyclone Nargis caused three out of four buildings to collapse in two towns, Laputta and Kyaik Lat, deep in the Irrawaddy delta when it slammed into central Myanmar this weekend, official media said on Sunday.State newspapers in Yangon, where at least four people have been killed, made no mention of any casualties in the two towns, which are southwest of Yangon and mainly reachable by boat.Nearly all the buildings left standing had lost their roofs, the reports said.(Reporting by Aung Hla Tun; Writing by Ed Cropley; Editing by Darren Schuettler)                                              

 

    Yangon residents began to move about mostly on foot as few number of public buses could run as such huge vehicles find impossible to fight their ways through roads densely blocked by the Nargis-triggered fallen trees and its long and thick branches.

    Only a number of small vehicles were seen picking up passengers who are worried and eager to travel and meet their relatives and friends probably in trouble and need help if victimized.

    Passengers traveling by road were stranded at bus terminals, even finding difficult to get a taxi as an alternative way, the fare of which became doubled, passengers said.

    Other passengers traveling by the waterway were also seen stranded at river port jetties as passenger vessels are suspended for the moment due to the reason that some Yangon port terminals got destroyed by the cyclone with some five vessels being reportedly capsized and the casualties are still unknown.

    A small number of private shops rather than big shopping centers have opened for business mostly with food shops congested with customers seeking to buy at least bread, milk, rice, meat and vegetable.

    As electric poles and cable wires as well as telephone wires fell down and got disconnected due to the cyclone, power and communications failure maddened the public. The telephone link was so destroyed to a degree that mobile connection is hardly accessible.

    Especially that the power failure has brought the city into darkness as sun sets except some particular buildings and some affordable people have power sources operated from big and small generators.

    The night time of Yangon was spent with silence with few people going out on streets except some with torch lights on urgent case. Meanwhile, there saw some number of police vehicles patrolling around the city for security purpose.

    Besides, people were seen queuing for getting water partly available from some underground water pipes.

    Moreover, Yangon residents are mostly organizing themselves under voluntary basis to chop fallen trees and branches blocking roads to clear way for traffic and lift trees pressing on buildings. Individual people are also doing the same with their residential compounds where trees fell lying.

    Some police members were also seen moving away the blockade in some areas like that near the City hall and the Shwedagon Pagoda.

    Still some people were busy repairing their roofs blown off by the storm wind.

    Conclusively, electricity, water supply and communication links are pressing need after the disaster.

    Meanwhile, Myanmar government has declared five divisions and states — Yangon, Bago, Ayeyawaddy, Kayin and Mon — hit by current cyclone storm, as natural-disaster-hit regions.

    The government said some parts of the country like areas in coastal regions of southwestern Ayeyawaddy division — Haing Gyi Island, Pathein, Myaungmya, Laputta, Mawlamyinegyun, Kyaiklat, Phyarpon, Bogalay — also met with serious damage but the details are still not available including the casualty figures which are not yet confirmed by the authorities.

    The terrible cyclone Nargis, which occurred over the Bay of Bengal and stroke Yangon at a wind speed of about 192 kilometers per hour with a diameter of 240 km, has almost totally devastated the former capital.

    Observers here commented that the loss due to the disaster is inestimable.

Cyclone batters Myanmar, casualties feared

By Aung Hla Tun

 

YANGON (Reuters) – More than 200 people have been killed in military-ruled Myanmar by a Category 3 cyclone that ripped through Yangon and the Irrawaddy delta, where it flattened two towns, officials and state media said on Sunday.

Packing winds of 190 km (120 miles) per hour when it hit on Saturday morning, Cyclone Nargis devastated the former Burma’s leafy main city, littering the streets with overturned cars, fallen trees and debris from battered buildings.
“Utter war zone,” one Yangon-based diplomat said in an email to Reuters in Bangkok. “Trees across all streets. Utility poles down. Hospitals devastated. Clean water scarce.”
A government official in Naypyidaw, the ruling general’s new capital 240 miles to the north, said the latest death toll was more than 200.
The BBC, citing a report on state television, said 243 people were dead and more than 20,000 homes were destroyed. State MRTV later said the death toll was 241, including 19 in Yangon and 222 killed in the hardest-hit Irrawaddy division southwest of the former capital.
Official newspapers in Yangon said only one in four buildings were left standing in Laputta and Kyaik Lat, two towns deep in the rice-producing delta and accessible mainly by boat. There were no details of casualties.

  In Yangon, many roofs were ripped off even sturdy buildings, suggesting damage would be severe in the shanty towns that sit on the outskirts of the sprawling riverside city of 5 million.

Foreign aid workers, whose movements are restricted by the ruling military junta, had not managed to reach many impoverished areas to assess the impact.

“I have never seen anything like it,” one retired government worker told Reuters. “It reminded me of when Hurricane Katrina hit the United States.”

Although the sun was shining by Sunday morning, the former capital was without power and water, and food prices had doubled, with many storeholders unsure of when they would be able to replenish stocks. Most shops had sold out of candles.

An Electricity Board official said it was impossible to know when the power supply — hit-and-miss at the best of times in one of Asia’s poorest countries — would be restored.

“We still have to clear the mess,” the official, who did not want to be named, said.

United Nations disaster experts said it would be days before the full extent of the damage was known in a country ruled since 1962 by secretive and ruthless military regimes.

Bunkered down in Naypyidaw, the junta’s top brass will almost certainly have avoided the worst of the storm.

The military authorities declared a disaster in five states and state media carried footage of soldiers clearing trees from roads and Prime Minister Thein Sein, a lieutenant-general, meeting people sheltering in a Buddhist pagoda.

DEATH TOLL COULD CLIMB

The death toll could climb yet further as authorities slowly make contact with outlying towns and villages along the coast, where weather forecasters had predicted a storm surge of up to 12 feet.

They are also likely to uncover victims beneath some of the buildings that collapsed in Yangon under the force of the cyclone, which had been gathering steam for several days in the tropical waters of the Bay of Bengal.

Damages in Rangoon after cyclone Nargis“It was a direct hit on a major city,” said Terje Skavdal, regional head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA).

“The government did warn people to stay inside and that might have had an impact, but the material damage is enormous for sure,” Skavdal said.

The U.N. had made an offer of assistance but was yet to receive a response from the junta, he added.

It remains to be seen what impact the storm will have on a referendum on an army-drafted constitution scheduled for May 10.

The charter is part of a “roadmap to democracy” meant to culminate in multiparty elections in 2010 and end nearly five decades of military rule. The opposition and Western governments say it allows the army to retain too much control. Damages in Rangoon after cyclone Nargis

An official at Yangon International Airport said all incoming flights had been diverted to the second city of Mandalay, in the middle of the southeast Asian nation, and all departures from Yangon had been cancelled.

Thai Airways in Bangkok said flights would not resume before Monday.

State media said four vessels sank in Yangon harbor, and jetties in ports had come loose.

By 0900 GMT (5:00 a.m. EDT), Nargis had tracked northeast into northern Thailand, where it was dumping large amounts of rain but with dramatically reduced wind speeds.

(Additional reporting by Khettiya Jittapong and Darren Schuettler in BANGKOK)

(Writing by Ed Cropley; Editing by Darren Schuettler and Bill Tarrant)

Agencies rush emergency aid to Myanmar cyclone victims

YANGON (AFP) — Aid agencies Monday rushed emergency food and water into Myanmar after a cyclone tore into the southwest of the impoverished nation, killing more than 350 people and leaving tens of thousands homeless.

Despite the devastation wreaked by tropical cyclone Nargis, the ruling junta vowed to press ahead with its controversial referendum this weekend on a new constitution, which critics say will entrench military rule.

Nargis left at least 351 dead after making landfall at the weekend, packing winds of 190 kilometres (120 miles) per hour, wrecking thousands of buildings and knocking out power lines, state media reported.

People of the main city, Yangon, were busy Monday clearing roads blocked by fallen trees and queuing to collect water from neighbours with private wells, as supplies were cut by the storm.

“I haven’t seen anything like this in my whole life. It will take at least a month to return to normal,” a 70-year-old man told AFP.

Several coastal villages southwest of Yangon were, destroyed according to a preliminary assessment by the International Federation of the Red Cross, its spokesman Michael Annear told AFP in Bangkok.

The villages in the Ayeyawaddy (Irrawaddy) delta bore the brunt of Nargis, which came in from the Bay of Bengal and combined with a sea surge.

State media said nearly 98,000 people were homeless on the delta’s Haing Gyi island alone, which is home to a navy base.

Annear said teams in Myanmar were distributing essential supplies and would bring in more from Malaysia as soon as possible.

“We’re distributing supplies for those who need shelter, plastic sheeting to cover roofs, water purification tablets, we are currently procuring 5,000 litres of water, cooking items, bednets, blankets and clothes for those in most need,” he said.

“We went out as soon as possible but there were problems with mobility due to a lot of debris and power lines down. Authorities and the local community have been clearing the road networks so mobility has increased today.”

Hundreds of monks joined in efforts by residents, police and troops to clear blocked roads.

“The government should do more and we need emergency assistance. Water is the main need for us. I haven’t taken a bath for three days,” a taxi driver told AFP.

Annear said it would take days to get a full picture of the extent of the devastation.

The military government said Saturday’s referendum on a new constitution intended to usher in democracy would go ahead, but with food prices tripling and water supplies cut, residents said they had more pressing problems.

“We don’t want any democracy, we just want water now,” a 30-year-old man said as he queued at a neighbour’s well.

But the junta, based in the remote new capital of Naypyidaw, insisted “the entire people of the country are eagerly looking forward” to the referendum, the New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported.

The generals say it will pave the way for multiparty elections in 2010, but opponents say the charter will entrench military rule.

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s house in Yangon, were she is under house arrest, was damaged but the Nobel peace laureate was unhurt, a Myanmar official told AFP.

“Her house was also hit a little but she is safe,” the official said.

Meanwhile United Nations agencies and international charities were meeting at the UN’s Bangkok headquarters to coordinate their response to the disaster, Terje Skavdal, head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, told AFP.

He said Myanmar’s national Red Cross was the only agency able to commence damage assessment Sunday, but other agencies had now started their own.

The country’s infrastructure has been run into the ground by decades of mismanagement by the military, which has ruled since 1962. Myanmar has also suffered more than a decade of US and European sanctions over the continuing detention of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Sanctions were tightened after the junta’s crackdown on mass protests last September left 31 people dead, according to UN figures.

 

 

The cyclone coincided with a storm surge tide inundating fields and islands in the vast and low lying delta of the Irrawaddy, Burma’s largest and most important river. In the towns of Kyaiklat and Laputta, three quarters of buildings were reported to have been destroyed.

In Rangoon, the former capital and Burma’s biggest city, local people, including Buddhist monks, were using handsaws to chop up tens of thousands of tall tropical trees which had blown over crushing cars and buildings beneath them. There were long queues at petrol stations and prices of commodities such as eggs were reported to have doubled.

Telephone and electricity supplies to Rangoon have almost completely broken down, and shopkeepers were keeping their premises half shuttered, after reports of looting at food markets.

An organisation of exiled Burmese opposition activists reported that 36 prisoners at the notorious Insein Prison in Rangoon were shot dead by police after a riot over deteriorating conditions caused by the cyclone.

Apart from the loss of life, the injuries and the destruction of tens of thousands of homes, the disaster may have far reaching secondary effects. The flooding and destruction of sanitation systems increases the risk of epidemics, including malaria and typhoid, and adds to pressure on villages where many people subsist of less than a dollar a day.

The stricken area is Burma’s richest agricultural region, and the cyclone must have wrought terrible damage on the rice crop. World rice prices are at a record high already, provoking food riots in more than 30 countries. Burma is a net exporter of rice, and the destruction of crops in the Irrawaddy Delta will only add to upward pressure on international prices.

Burma may be unable to keep its promise to sell rice stocks to other more needy countries such as Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, where a cyclone last year destroyed crops.

The World Food Programme has stocks of 500,000 tonnes in Rangoon and plans to bring in more. Thailand became the first country to provide aid by sending a C-130 transport plane loaded with food and medicines. Two Indian naval ships were on their way carrying relief and medical supplies.

On Saturday Burma’s military government is due to hold a referendum on a new constitution. The Government promises free elections in 2010. But Burmese opposition groups insist that the constitution is a sham that will simply transfer power from uniformed officers to a civilian dictatorship. The new constitution guarantees a quarter of all seats for the military and bars the Nobel Prize winning opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, from the presidency.

Yesterday the government insisted that the referendum would go ahead. “The referendum is only a few days away and the people are eagerly looking forward to voting,” the junta said in a statement confirming the vote would go ahead as planned.

As many as ten thousand people could have died in the catastrophic storm which ripped across Burma on Saturday, and the number is likely to rise as aid workers pick their way through rubble, floods and broken roads to the stricken areas of the Irrawaddy Delta.

Foreign diplomats in Rangoon were told by Myanmar’s foreign minister that he acknowledges that the cyclone death toll could rise to 10,000, after a day during which the official count had gone from 351 to 4,000 dead.

“The confirmed number is 3,934 dead, 41 injured and 2,879 missing within the Yangon and Irrawaddy divisions,” Burmese state radio reported. Three other divisions have been declared emergency areas after Cyclone Nargis swept across the country’s most fertile and densely populated region on Saturday morning at speeds of 120 miles per hour.

“How many people are affected? We know that it’s in the six figures, Richard Horsey, of the United Nations disaster response office in Bangkok, told Reuters. “We know that it’s several hundred thousand needing shelter and clean drinking water, but how many hundred thousand we just don’t know.”

 

 

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