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More Than 22,000 Dead After Burma Cyclones

From a highly incensed Associated Press:

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

YANGON, Myanmar – The cyclone death toll soared above 22,000 on Tuesday and more than 41,000 others were missing as foreign countries mobilized to rush in aid after the country’s deadliest storm on record, state radio reported.

Up to 1 million people may be homeless after Cyclone Nargis hit the Southeast Asian nation, also known as Burma, early Saturday. Some villages have been almost totally eradicated and vast rice-growing areas are wiped out, the World Food Program said.

Images from state television showed large trees and electricity poles sprawled across roads and roofless houses ringed by large sheets of water in the Irrawaddy River delta region, which is regarded as Myanmar’s rice bowl.

“From the reports we are getting, entire villages have been flattened and the final death toll may be huge,” Mac Pieczowski, who heads the International Organization for Migration office in Yangon, said in a statement…

Myanmar’s military regime has signaled it will welcome aid supplies for victims of a devastating cyclone, the U.N. said Tuesday, clearing the way for a major relief operation from international organizations.

But U.N. workers were still awaiting their visas to enter the country, said Elisabeth Byrs of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

“The government has shown a certain openness so far,” Byrs said. “We hope that we will get the visas as soon as possible, in the coming hours. I think the authorities have understood the seriousness of the situation and that they will act accordingly.”

The appeal for outside assistance was unusual for Myanmar’s ruling generals, who have long been suspicious of international organizations and closely controlled their activities. Several agencies, including the International Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders, have limited their presence as a consequence.

Allowing any major influx of foreigners could carry risks for the military, injecting unwanted outside influence and giving the aid givers rather than the junta credit for a recovery.

However, keeping out international aid would focus blame squarely on the military should it fail to restore peoples’ livelihoods.

Some aid agencies reported their assessment teams had reached some areas of the largely isolated region but said getting in supplies and large numbers of aid workers would be difficult.

The cyclone came only a week ahead of a key referendum on a constitution that Myanmar’s military leaders hoped would go smoothly in its favor, despite opposition from the country’s feisty pro-democracy movement. However, the disaster could stir the already tense political situation.

State radio also said that Saturday’s vote would be delayed until May 24 in 40 of 45 townships in the Yangon area and seven in the Irrawaddy delta, which took the brunt of the weekend storm. It indicated that the balloting would proceed in other areas as scheduled…

So now we will have days of people who could not find Myanmar (or even Burma) on a clearly labeled map telling us that this is the fault of global warming, the Bush administration and FEMA.

Of course there are just no other possible explanations.

This article was posted by Steve on Tuesday, May 6th, 2008. Comments are currently closed.

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