Thursday, May 08, 2008

Grim Aftermath of Cyclone Nargis in Burma (Union of Myanmar)

Do you like the look of these sharp-looking soldiers and police officers, pictured above, unloading relief supplies from a plane at Yangon (Rangoon) International Airport in Burma (Union of Myanmar)? From reports coming from the region, unfortunately they are mostly interested in photo-ops. Civilians report that once the cameras disappear, so do the soldiers. The other day they drove their military vehicles around and used loud speakers to instruct the citizens to clean up the mess left in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis. In the Irrawaddy delta of Burma / Myanmar, not far from Yangon, the situation is grim.

The repressive military government in Burma (Union of Myanmar) has been dithering and delaying about granting entry visas as aid workers ready to help milled about in nearby countries; planes with food, water, and medicine sat on tarmacs; and prepositioned relief materials gathered dust in warehouses throughout the region. The US has been seeking to help along with life-saving helicopters and a hospital ship. If the government of Myanmar had allowed the entry of aid workers and relief materials, cholera--a disease brought by unclean water--which is now starting to kill the citizens of Burma / Myanmar perhaps would have been averted.

According to many reports, dozens of villages in the Irrawaddy delta have simply disappeared. Local medical personnel are overwhelmed, and there are so many corpses it is impossible to bury them.

For a closer look at events as they unfolded in Buma /Myanmar, see this diary. For a current and comprehensive field report on the devastation of Cyclone Nargis in the Irrawaddy delta, this field report includes the results of several eyewitness interviews. Thankfully, aid is beginning to arrive, but for Myanmar's military regime it could have been on the ground much earlier this week.

UPDATE: Not only are the military helping unload supplies, they have now confiscated all official UN aid in the country. Nothing and no one is getting in at the moment and there is talk that the on-the-ground situation might make the aftermath of the Boxing Day Tsunami look like a Sunday School Picnic. Pray for the people of Burma. At the moment, it is all you can do.


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