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Posts Tagged ‘death toll

Cyclone death toll may top 100,000

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Aung Hla Tun, Reuters

Published: Wednesday, May 07, 2008

YANGON – More than 100,000 people may have been killed in the cyclone in Myanmar, a U.S. diplomat said on Wednesday, citing information diplomats were receiving from the devastated Irrawaddy delta region of the Southeast Asian country.

“The information that we’re receiving indicates that there may well be over 100,000 deaths in the delta area,” said Shari Villarosa, the charge d’affaires of the U.S. embassy in Myanmar. She spoke with reporters by conference call from the capital Yangon.

State Myanmar radio and TV, the main official sources for casualties and damage, reported an updated death toll of 22,980 with 42,119 missing and 1,383 injured in Asia’s most devastating cyclone since a 1991 storm in Bangladesh that killed 143,000.

Most of the victims were swept away by a wall of water from the cyclone that smashed into coastal towns and villages in the rice-growing delta southwest of Yangon.

“We estimate upwards of 1 million people currently in need of shelter and life-saving assistance,” Richard Horsey of the United Nations Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs told Reuters in Bangkok. He added that 5,000 square km (1,930 square miles) of the delta were under water.

Aid began trickling into Myanmar on Wednesday.

But there were worries abroad over whether the country’s ruling military junta would overcome its distrust of the outside world and open up to a full-scale international relief operation.

Thailand, China, India and Indonesia were flying in relief supplies and the U.S. President and Australian Prime Minister appealed to the Myanmar government to accept their assistance. France called for the U.N. Security Council to get involved.

The top U.N. humanitarian affairs official, John Holmes, said four Asian members of a U.N. disaster assessment team who do not need visas had received clearance to enter Myanmar on Thursday. A fifth non-Asian member is waiting for a visa.

Speaking at a news conference in New York, Holmes also called on Myanmar to waive visa requirements for aid workers.

Political analysts and critics of 46 years of military rule say the cyclone may have long-term implications for the junta, which is even more feared and resented since last September’s bloody crackdown on Buddhist monk-led protests.

(Additional reporting by Darren Schuettler and Sukree Sukplang in Bangkok and Michael Perry in Sydney; Writing by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Frances Kerry)

Written by Lwin Aung Soe

May 8, 2008 at 11:09 am

Myanmar Death Toll Reported at Nearly 4000

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Thousands More Deaths Expected in Myanmar

Hla Hla Htay/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

People who lost their homes took shelter in a Buddhist temple in Yangon on Monday. More Photos >

Published: May 6, 2008

The death toll from the devastating cyclone that struck Myanmar over the weekend escalated to nearly 4,000 people, the government said Monday, and the foreign minister told diplomats and United Nations officers that it could rise to 10,000.

If the numbers are accurate, the death toll would be the biggest from a natural disaster in Asia since the tsunami of December 2004, which killed 181,000 as it devastated coastlines in Indonesia, Thailand and other parts of southeast and south Asia.

On Monday, Myanmar’s state television and radio reported 3,934 dead, 41 injured and 2,879 missing — all from a single town.

Hundreds of thousands of people were reportedly homeless and food and water were in short supply after Cyclone Nargis swept through the Irrawaddy Delta and the country’s main city, Yangon, early Saturday.

The estimate that the death toll could rise to 10,000, which would represent a dramatic increase from the government’s initial estimate on Sunday of 351 people killed, was announced at a briefing in Myanmar by three cabinet ministers, including the foreign minister, Nyan Win, according to Richard Horsey, a spokesman for the United Nations disaster response office in Bangkok.

“What is clear is that we are dealing with a major emergency situation, and the priority needs now are shelter and clean drinking water,” Mr. Horsey said.

A spokesman for the World Food Program, Paul Risley, said the government of Myanmar, which severely restricts the movements and activities of foreign groups, had given the United Nations permission to send in emergency aid.

“Stories get worse by the hour,” one Yangon resident reported 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.”

A human rights group based in Thailand, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners Burma, which has provided reliable information from within Myanmar in the past, said that soldiers and police officers had killed 36 prisoners in Insein prison to quell a riot that started after the cyclone tore roof sheets off cell blocks, Reuters reported.

The report could not be independently confirmed.

Despite the devastation, the government said it would proceed with a constitutional referendum scheduled for Saturday that is intended to formalize the military’s grip on power.

The junta that rules Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, has closed the country off from the outside world and maintained its grip on power through force, while its economic mismanagement has driven the country deeper into poverty. Some analysts said the government’s response to the disaster could affect the pattern of voting by a population that has been under strong pressure to support the referendum. Some government-run enterprises or businesses with associations with the government have already required their employees to vote in advance.

Witnesses said the government was slow to address the disaster, and exile groups said some residents had told them they were angry about the weak response of the military, which just nine months ago carried out a violent crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations led by monks.

“This is what people I have contacted complain about,” said Aung Zaw, editor of the magazine Irrawaddy, based in Thailand. “These people were so active in September killing the monks, but where are they now?”

Dozens of people were reportedly killed during the crackdown last year, which was followed by a campaign of intimidation and arrests.

Myanmar has been under military rule since 1965 and continues to suppress political opposition. The pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for 12 of the past 18 years.

The immediate problem in affected areas is now survival, with water and electricity cut off, roads blocked by fallen trees, roofs torn off homes and prices for transportation and food rising fast.

“People are starving,” an unidentified resident was quoted as saying by the Democratic Voice of Burma, a dissident radio station based in Norway.

“Fuel is becoming scarce,” the resident was quoted as saying. “People are likely to die of starvation. If international help doesn’t come within a week, it will be impossible to survive. There will be nothing left to eat.”

Mr. Horsey, of the United Nations, said teams representing various aid groups were trying to assess the damage in the disaster areas, where half the country’s population of 53 million lives.

Despite concerns from human rights groups that the junta would not allow outside aid groups into hard-hit areas, Mr. Horsey said, “There are discussions ongoing. My impression is that they are receptive to international assistance.”

Some aid had already been stockpiled in anticipation of natural disasters, he said.

“It will take a few days until a complete and accurate picture of the impact and of the numbers of people affected comes out,” he said. “The road network has taken a significant hit and moving around is difficult, and the communications network is essentially down.”

Even without the destruction from the cyclone, travel and communications can be difficult in the country because of its weak infrastructure, said David Mathieson, an expert on Myanmar with Human Rights Watch.

In Yangon, he said, people usually get only five or six hours of electricity a day, and some remote areas have no access to electricity. “So the fact that electricity is down is not really that important,” he said.

Jens Orback, a former minister for integration and democracy in Sweden, was in Yangon when the cyclone hit.

“Trees that were standing there hundreds of years fell easily,” he said, “and things from roofs fell down and the electricity went down and there were only flashlights. In the first days you couldn’t go anywhere by car. No telephones worked. The Internet was out, and there was a lack of information.

“What struck us also was that in the first daylight, nobody from the police, military or firemen was out working with the devastation, but people privately were there with knives and machetes and hand saws.”

Aung Zaw of Irrawaddy Magazine said that groups of monks joined residents in clearing the streets but that in one case they had been prevented from leaving their monastery by armed police officers. As centers of the September uprising, some monasteries remain under police or military guard, he said.

In advance of the referendum, the riot police had been reported patrolling the streets in a show of force said to have been more visible than the current military relief efforts.


Video Video Report

The Lede Blog
Help Us Report on the Cyclone in Myanmar is asking readers inside Myanmar to help us report on the disaster by sending in photographs, video or written accounts.

Khin Maung Win/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Residents lined up to get drinking water on Monday in Yangon, Myanmar. More Photos »

Khin Maung Win/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A Yangon resident near a boat destroyed by the cyclone. Whether foreign disaster aid would be welcomed was unclear. More Photos >

The New York Times

More than 160 died on an island off Myanmar’s coast. More Photos >

Written by Lwin Aung Soe

May 5, 2008 at 6:24 pm

World Focus on Burma (8-12-2007)

  1. UN cites reports of corpses in Myanmar
    Reuters South Africa, South Africa –
    Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, has suffered economic decay since its 1962 military coup despite possessing rich resources in gas, timber and mining. …
  2. UN report raises death toll in Myanmar crackdown, Canada –
    The military has run the reclusive Southeast Asian country formerly known as Burma since 1962, refusing to hand over power after the National League of …
  3. 10 December 2007 – International Human Rights Day, New Zealand –
    The situation in countries like Myanmar/Burma or Sudan/Darfur is but a stark reminder of our common challenge, which is: to move from the era of …
  4. UN report raises death toll in Myanmar crackdown
    Reuters UK, UK –
    The military has run the reclusive Southeast Asian country formerly known as Burma since 1962, refusing to hand over power after the National League of …
  5. UN Says 31 Killed in Myanmar Crackdown
    The Associated Press –
    GENEVA (AP) — Myanmar’s crackdown on pro-democracy protesters killed more than twice as many people as the junta has acknowledged, a UN investigator said …
  6. Stallone says filming ‘Rambo’ was dangerous
    MSNBC –
    … the crew were warned they would be shot while filming the new “Rambo” sequel along the war-torn border of Thailand and Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. …
  7. Human rights at stake in ASEAN integration
    United Press International –
    … in Myanmar, formerly Burma, and other nations — including the release of opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, the Financial Times reported Friday. …
  8. Spotlight on Burma: the people’s stories
    Daily – University of Washington, WA –
    It was an ironic statement, considering how her family has been embroiled in Burma’s conflict for generations. Myanmar, as Burma is now called, …
  9. Write-a-Thon for human rights is tomorrow
    Providence Journal, RI –
    The focus is on Burma (called Myanmar by the ruling military junta), to support a recent uprising for human rights in that country that echoes the 1988 …
  10. US Congress to consider bill to cut funds to Myanmar
    Press Trust of India, India –
    “Myanmar’s generals fund this viciousness by selling off the country’s natural resources, especially oil and gems, while leaving Burma’s people in poverty,” …
  11. Myanmar junta suppressed death tolls of crackdown: HRW
    Hindustan Times, India –
    “It’s time for the world to impose a UN arms embargo and financial sanctions, to hurt Burma’s leaders until they make real changes,” said Adams. …
  12. Rise of the military in Burma
    Aliran Monthly, Malaysia –
    To date, this army remains Burma’s national army, known as “Myanmar Thatmadaw”. Now the role of the army is more than guardian of the nation; …
  13. Marines study Pacific Rim in advance of January deployment
    North County Times, CA –
    The Marines also were told to be aware of other potential Pacific Rim hotspots, such as Indonesia and Myanmar, also known as Burma. …
  14. Inside The Glass Palace!
    CNN-IBN, India –
    But within a few hours the tragedy of Burma started unfolding. One could see the pickets that have become a fixture of Yangon streets. …
  15. Protesters’ bodies may have been burned: UN
    National Post, Canada –
    Burma’s military rulers may have cremated bodies, including those of monks, to hide the numbers killed in their crackdown on protesters, a UN expert said …
  16. Madison marching for Burmese rights
    The Capital Times, WI –
    Realistically, the only way the United States will become a useful player on behalf of democracy in Burma is if members of Congress such as US Rep. …
  17. North Korean Ambassador to Burma Takes Up Post After 24-Year …
    Voice of America –
    Burma’s New Light of Myanmar says ties were restored Friday when North Korean Ambassador Kim Sok Chol presented his credentials to Senior General Than Shwe …
  18. SPDC ‘Comical Ali’ no cause for mirth
    Nation Multimedia, Thailand –
    On the same day that Kyaw Hsan was making his wild claims, Burma’s state-run mouthpiece, The New Light of Myanmar, reported the destruction of some 28.3 …