Save Burma

အာဏာရွင္စနစ္ က်ဆံုးမွ တတိုင္းျပည္လံုး စစ္မွန္တဲ့ ဒီမိုကေရစီကို ခံစားရမယ္

Posts Tagged ‘Help

Burma’s updated top news (3 June 2008)

leave a comment »

.

In darkened Rangoon, Burmese get resourceful

The Christian Science Monitor

Rangoon, Burma – Unable to read street signs at 8 p.m., a Burmese driver was lost in the darkness somewhere in a western township of his native Rangoon (Yangon). Ghostly figures of people emerged in the headlights, like deer on a mountain road. In the flickering light of passing cars, shoppers milled around a bustling food market, fumbling for money and buying fruit and vegetables sight unseen.


Voice of America

Untold story of Burma’s relief effort

BBC News –
Meanwhile state television shows Burma’s military generals touring showcase, largely empty, camps and posing beside well-stocked shelves of medical supplies.
Burma might accept UN choppers this week Melbourne Herald Sun
Myanmar cyclone: half of survivors without aid Telegraph.co.uk
Radio AustraliaSlateVoice of Americaguardian.co.uk
all 97 news articles »


NDTV.com

Myanmar junta withholds permission to choppers

Merinews –
Farce and the Myanmar military junta have become synonymous. A month after over a million people perished and 2.5 million were rendered homeless, the heartless regime withholds permission to airlift relief supplies by choppers to devastated areas.
US accuses Burma of criminal neglect guardian.co.uk
Burma junta ‘put children in danger by re-opening schools’ Telegraph.co.uk
San Jose Mercury NewsLos Angeles TimesPhiladelphia Daily News
all 702 news articles »


NDTV.com

ASEAN-UN-Myanmar tripartite core group to make joint assessment on …

Xinhua –
YANGON, June 3 (Xinhua) — A tripartite core group involving the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the United Nations (UN) and Myanmar is working to make joint assessment on the impact of Cyclone Nargis that devastated Myanmar in early …
Asean, UN to help Myanmar assess cyclone damage Thaindian.com
Southeast Asia: Series of unfortunate disasters Global Voices Online
USA TodayReutersRadio AustraliaXinhua
all 50 news articles »


Sydney Morning Herald

Burma Says New Constitution Washes Away NLD Victory

Voice of America –
By VOA News Burma’s state media say a referendum approving a new military-backed constitution has “washed away” the victory won by Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition party in 1990 elections.
Myanmar charter ‘washes away’ Suu Kyi victory: state media AFP
MIAMI HERALD: Burma’s rulers sink to new low Belleville News Democrat
all 7 news articles »


BBC News

More firms ‘have ties with Burma’

BBC News –
… the country since the group began compiling the list six years ago. Qantas appears on the list because of its controlling stake in Jetstar Asia, which, according to Burma Campaign, flies to the country in partnership with Myanmar Airways International.
Over 150 companies are accused of helping finance Burma’s dictatorship InTheNews.co.uk
all 5 news articles »


BBC News

Burma’s unsung heroes

BBC News –
It has been a month since Cyclone Nargis laid waste to huge areas of southern Burma, leaving more than 130000 people dead or missing.
Feature: After the cyclone Inspire Magazine
Burma reopens schools hit by Cyclone Nargis guardian.co.uk
Watford Observer
all 6 news articles »


ITV.com

Burma pressured over camp evictions

ITV.com –
Foreign aid groups have pressed Burma to stop closing relief camps after Cyclone Nargis left millions destitute. A meeting is being held between aid groups and the Burmese government, during which red tape and the closure of cyclone camps will be …
Rangoon residents left in dark Toronto Star
Eyewitness account Ottawa Citizen
BBC NewsReliefWeb (press release)The Irrawaddy News Magazine
all 8 news articles »

Soft line on Burma hard to beat: Malaysian PM

The Age –
Malaysia is a vocal member of ASEAN, and Mr Abdullah said the grouping had taken the lead in talks between Burma and the global community.


AFP

Myanmar denies delays to cyclone aid, as relief effort lags

AFP –
YANGON (AFP) – Myanmar denied Tuesday any delays to cyclone aid, but the United Nations said the operation to help 2.4 million survivors is still moving too slowly one month after the deadly storm.

Post-disaster reconstruction in Myanmar underway

Xinhua –
YANGON, June 3 (Xinhua) — Official media the New Light of Myanmar Tuesday quoted state leaders as saying that the first phase of the country’s post-disaster restoration work — rescue and relief, has finished up to a certain extent.
Myanmar Rulers Still Impeding Access New York Times
Back to school in Myanmar Los Angeles Times
The Associated PressReutersInternational Herald TribuneJerusalem Post
all 527 news articles »


WBT

A month on, sickness and sadness in Myanmar’s neglected villages

AFP –
ANGU, Myanmar (AFP) – The Irrawaddy delta bore the brunt when Cyclone Nargis struck on May 2 and 3, instantly killing more than 20 people in Angu village, while dozens of villagers have since fallen ill with coughs, colds and diarrhoea as vital aid …
Second wave economic crisis in Myanmar Asia Times Online
Myanmar Delays Cost `Thousands of Lives,’ Gates Says (Update2) Bloomberg
ABS CBN NewsAFPAFPAFP
all 2,281 news articles »


CTV.ca

UN: 1 million in Myanmar aren’t getting basic aid

The Associated Press –
“It’s unconscionable for Burma’s generals to force cyclone victims back to their devastated homes,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
Aid ‘lottery’ for Myanmar survivors Aljazeera.net
Aid groups: 1 million in Myanmar without help CNN
ReliefWeb (press release)
all 132 news articles »

.

Despite damage, many schools reopen in Myanmar

Schoolchildren leave their school with cyclone damaged roof, windows and walls in the village of Thuwana, 26 kilometers (16 miles) south of Yangon, Myanmar, Monday, June 2, 2008. Schools reopened Monday with many in and around Yangon still bearing the scares and damage of the May 2-3 Cyclone Nargis that left more than 130,000 people dead or missing. (AP Photo) (AP)

THUWANA, Myanmar – As students filed into Middle School No. 1 on Monday for the first day of classes since the cyclone hit Myanmar a month ago, all eyes stared skyward — at the gaping hole in the roof.

.

Xinhua –
YANGON, June 3 (Xinhua) — A tripartite core group involving the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the United Nations (UN) and Myanmar is working to make joint assessment on the impact of Cyclone Nargis that devastated Myanmar in early …
.


PRESS TV

CNN –
BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) — One month after the devastating cyclone hit Myanmar, aid groups say more than a million survivors are still without basic relief.
Myanmar monks a vital lifeline for cyclone survivors AFP
all 18 news articles »
.

Citizen

Who’s in the Junta?The mysterious generals who run Burma.

Slate –
By Jacob Leibenluft US Defense Secretary Robert Gates accused the military leaders of Burma of “criminal neglect” on Sunday for their reluctance to accept international aid after Cyclone Nargis.
Top UN Official Accuses Burma of Obstructing Aid Voice of America
Myanmar reopens schools 1 month after cyclone The Associated Press
guardian.co.ukTelegraph.co.ukSan Jose Mercury News
all 501 news articles »

.

Seattle Post Intelligencer –
After a cyclone devastated the Asian country several weeks ago, the public encyclopedia’s editors – remember, anyone can edit it – changed the title of the country’s encyclopedia article from Myanmar to Burma. Others changed it back again.

Burma Cyclone Disaster Fundraiser, Scala, London

Independent –
It’s always tempting, when thinking about a disaster of Cyclone Nargis’s magnitude, to conclude that there is nothing much one person can do.

.

CSMonitor.com Mon Jun 2, 4:00 AM ET

Rangoon, Burma – Flying home, Burmese sailors are awestruck when they see the Irrawaddy Delta below them. Four weeks after cyclone Nargis hit, much of the delta is still underwater, a murky inland sea of swollen rivers and flooded fields, dotted with soggy clumps of thatch and bamboo that used to be villages teeming with children and water buffaloes.

Advertisements

Written by Lwin Aung Soe

June 3, 2008 at 4:19 am

Weeks After Cyclone in Myanmar, Even Farmers Wait for Food

leave a comment »

Published: May 26, 2008

The New York Times

On a road near Pyapon, in an area of Myanmar ravaged by a cyclone, people waited on Sunday for aid from Burmese civilians.

PYAPON, Myanmar — The roads of the ravaged Irrawaddy Delta are lined these days with people hoping to be fed.

After lifetimes living off the land, poor farmers have abandoned their ruined rice paddies, setting up makeshift bamboo shelters, waiting for carloads of Burmese civilians who have taken it on themselves to feed those who lost everything to Cyclone Nargis.

Few of those who wait say they have received anything from the government, other than threats.

“They said if we don’t break our huts and disappear, they will shoot us,” one man in the village of Thee Kone said over the weekend before a police jeep approached. “But as you can see, it’s raining now. We are pleading to the police to give us one more day and we will be gone far, far from the road, as they wish.”

A red sign on a stake along one road read: “Don’t throw food on the roads. It ruins the people’s good habits.”

On Sunday, donors from more than 50 countries and international agencies meeting in Yangon promised they would deliver more than $150 million in aid to help the country recover from the May 3 storm, The Associated Press reported, but only if they could get access to hard-hit areas like the delta. It remained unclear if Myanmar’s rulers were willing to meet that demand.

At the donor conference, Lt. Gen. Thein Sein, Myanmar’s prime minister, said that international aid was welcome, “provided that there are no strings attached,” according to news agencies that were allowed to send reporters to the meeting.

The conference also made clear a gap remained between the views of the government and the donors on what Myanmar needed most urgently.

The government, which insists that the emergency phase of the disaster is over, showed a video suggesting the country had enough rice, and that what it needed instead was billions of dollars for long-term reconstruction. Some analysts fear that the focus on rebuilding is a ploy.

“I believe they just want to use it for their ordinary activity, put it into their accounts and use it to buy weapons or houses or whatever they would like to do,” Josef Silverstein, an expert on Myanmar with Rutgers University, said in a recent interview.

The United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, said he believed that short-term help was a priority, with hundreds of thousands left homeless and aid reaching only a fraction of those who needed it. “The needs remain acute,” Mr. Ban said Sunday, “from clean water and sanitation to shelter, medical supplies and food.”

The breadth of those needs was evident during a trip on Friday and Saturday to the delta, the area most devastated by the storm, which left at least 134,000 people dead or missing. It also ruined rice fields and destroyed stocks of rice in flooding that followed.

Villagers in the region, which previously provided much of the rice for the country of 48 million, now squat along miles of roads, holding out bowls to the occasional passing cars bringing food and other supplies. Children keep a vigil, rushing to the vehicles for handouts, sometimes thrusting their arms inside the cars’ windows.

“I don’t know how the government is helping us,” said Ko Htay Oo, 40, in Kungyangon, a delta town 30 miles south of Yangon, Myanmar’s main city. He said the only aid he had seen was delivered by other Burmese citizens.

“I am no beggar, so I didn’t eat anything in the past two days,” he said, leaning against a roadside palm tree. “Besides, you shouldn’t compete with kids for begged food.”

Those who have gotten government help say it is not nearly enough.

U Min Lwin, 37, said his family had received a government ration only twice in the three weeks since the storm; each time they were given seven cups of rice.

A 51-year-old woman who gave her name as San said she recently received potatoes and a small amount of beans from the government but had no stove for cooking them.

Some people have been given government-issued tents, but the tents can accommodate only a small fraction of those left homeless.

In the village of Thee Kone near Pyapon, a major town in the delta, victims said that the village had received four tents that house 20 people each. Any family lucky enough to find tent space had received 16 cups of rice in the past week, a little more than two cups a day.

“There are many other families who want to move into the tents, but there is not enough space,” said the villager who spoke of the police intimidation. “So people complain. They complain not to the government or to the village administrator, but to each other, arguing, ‘Why are you in the tent and I am not?’ ”

He and others had built their own shelters by the road, but it was unclear where they would go after the police told them to leave Friday.

Those and other makeshift dwellings that have popped up on the roadsides are barely sufficient to shield people from the searing morning sun or the monsoon rains that sweep in to drench the area most afternoons.

Many of those who moved to the roadsides are the poorest of Burmese farmers, those who rent rice paddies from landlords. Before the storm, they traveled with their buffaloes, ducks and pigs from field to field, living in huts beside their paddies.

Now, as before, they live next to their source of food, with whatever little they were able to salvage from the wall of water that smashed into many parts of the delta.

One man found shelter in a large bamboo basket he had salvaged from the floodwater. Another lived in a tent built with a plastic Tiger Beer advertising banner that a truck driver had thrown to him. Pigs are tied to roadside palm trees. Ducks swim in the nearby ditches.

The roads are littered with plastic trash from the packaging of donated food.

“I have no dish, no cup, no blanket, no pillow. I have received nothing from the government,” said Daw San Mar Oo, 31, a farmer in a hamlet near Dedaye. “I have nothing in my hands.”

Still, the government continues to make it difficult for those wishing to offer private charity. Police officers armed with rifles stopped cars at checkpoints on Friday and Saturday. Foreigners without government permits to enter the disaster zone were turned back after their passports were copied. Those Burmese who were allowed to pass through were given a warning: Any donation, a yellow handout notice said, must be distributed through village leaders allied with the government.

In Pyapon, a commercial hub renowned for its “hpaya” grass mats, people maintained a semblance of traditional Burmese hospitality despite the disaster. When outside visitors asked for directions at dusk, a man offered them food and lodging at his home.

Pyapon, a trading center for rice, dried fish and fish paste, is the hometown of many rich Burmese tradesmen. But in this town, too, tales of horror were told, over evening tea.

“Dead bodies floating down the Pyapon River are no longer strangers to us,” said Daw Khin Kyi, a resident. “Some of these bodies still wear gold necklaces and bracelets, so some people went out to collect them in the first few days. But now, after many days, nobody goes near. Fish are nibbling at the bodies.”

Ma Ye Ye Tan, a 17-year-old from a hamlet down the river, survived the cyclone. She had arrived at the home of a Pyapon relative several days after the cyclone with virtually nothing on, shivering in monsoon rain.

Now, she said, she did want to go back to her village, which is filled with death. She is not sure what happened to her parents.

“After the cyclone came and went, we continued to hear people shouting in the darkness, but when village men went to search for them, they could find no one,” she said. “We think they are ghosts shouting. I am afraid of ghosts.”

Seth Mydans contributed reporting from Bangkok.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/26/world/asia/26myanmar.html?hp

The New York Times

The Irrawaddy Delta provided much of Myanmar’s rice.

Times Topics: Myanmar | Cyclone Nargis

Related

Myanmar Diverts French Warship Carrying Aid (May 27, 2008)

Times Topics: Myanmar | Cyclone Nargis
.

Lisandru/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Children from an isolated Irrawaddy Delta village, which is accessible only by boat, waiting on Friday to receive donated food.

Written by Lwin Aung Soe

May 26, 2008 at 8:13 am

Burma: Cyclone updated top news (24 May 2008)

leave a comment »

.


Voice of America

Myanmar cyclone victims vote on eve of aid conference

AFP –
YANGON (AFP) – Myanmar opened polls for hundreds of thousands of cyclone victims, many hungry, homeless and still waiting for aid, in a much-criticised constitutional referendum Saturday ahead of a key donors’ conference.
Myanmar Holds Ballot in Region Devastated by Cyclone (Update1) Bloomberg
Myanmar votes across cyclone zone Hindustan Times
Voice of AmericaBBC NewsBloombergVoice of America
all 152 news articles »

. Video:

Video Thumbnail
Mission: Saving Myanmar ABC News – Fri May 23, 9:01 AM ET

The Age

.

Cautious response to Burma pledge

BBC News –
Aid agencies have given a cautious welcome to the announcement that Burma’s leaders will allow all foreign relief workers into cyclone-hit areas.
“No time to lose” after Myanmar cyclone deal Reuters
Myanmar to allow foreign help for cyclone victims The Associated Press
Washington PostNew York TimesChicago TribuneTimes Online
all 4,823 news articles »

.


China Daily

Arizona State University supercomputing helps Myanmar relief efforts

Bizjournals.com –
Arizona State University has put its supercomputing powers to use to aid relief organizations trying to reach Myanmar. The country in southeast Asia was devastated by Cyclone Nargis on May 2, and recent reports have placed the number of people dead or …
National soccer team to resume training next month in cyclone-hit … Xinhua
DPM Wong to give update on Mas Selamat case; MPs ask about Myanmar … TODAYonline
The Asian Banker (subscription)Bombay NewsTimes OnlineEconomic Times
all 1,050 news articles »


Voice of America

Myanmar Holds Ballot in Region Devastated by Cyclone (Update1)

Bloomberg –
The US has denounced the vote, saying the charter aims to prolong military rule in the country formerly known as Burma, and is calling on the junta to focus instead on providing humanitarian relief.
Myanmar votes across cyclone zone Hindustan Times
Burma Prepares for Referendum in Areas Devastated by Cyclone Voice of America
BBC NewsRadio NetherlandsAFPVoice of America
all 94 news articles »


Monsters and Critics.com

Norway ready to help cyclone victims in Burma

Aftenposten –
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon could finally report a breakthrough in international efforts to aid cyclone victims in Burma on Friday, announcing that the country’s military leaders had agreed to allow disaster assistance.
Myanmar: Health cluster situation report no. 17, 23 May 2008 ReliefWeb (press release)
ASEAN Warns Burma to Boost Confidence Ahead of Donors Meeting Voice of America
Philippine StarNation MultimediaReliefWeb (press release)ReliefWeb (press release)
all 375 news articles »

.zippy-icon{border:0; margin-right:2px; margin-top:1px;}

Written by Lwin Aung Soe

May 24, 2008 at 5:23 am

Burma cyclone death toll could hit 63,000

leave a comment »

Burma: 60,000 feared dead in Cyclone Nargis

According to state television, 22,464 had been killed and another 41,054 were missing after cyclone Nargis barrelled into the low-lying Irrawaddy delta with 120mph winds, bringing with it an enormous storm surge that indunated towns and villages.

The social welfare minister Maung Maung Swe said that 95 per cent of houses in the delta town of Bogalay had been “destroyed”.

“More deaths were caused by the tidal wave than the storm itself,” he added. “The wave was up to 12 feet high and it swept away and inundated half the houses in low-lying villages. They did not have anywhere to flee.”

If previous disasters of this kind are anything to go by, few of the missing are likely to be found alive, and if anything the toll could rise further. Around one million people were estimated to be homeless.

But despite the scale of the devastation, Burma’s military junta — the country has been under a dictatorship for 46 years — were obstructing the entry of foreign aid personnel and supplies.

“The United Nations is asking the Burmese government to open its doors. The Burmese government replies: ‘Give us money, we’ll distribute it.’ We can’t accept that,” said the French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner, who is a co-founder of the aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres.

A UN disaster assessment team was stuck in Thailand overnight, unable to obtain visas, and the Burmese embassy in Bangkok was closed on Monday for a Thai holiday.

Countries around the world are offering help, but have yet to be invited in by the authorities, and aid agencies say that their staff are still waiting for visas.

In New York, Rashid Khalikov, the UN’s humanitarian affairs co- ordinator, appealed to Burma to drop visa requirements for UN aid staff.

“Unfortunately we cannot tell you how many people are in need of assistance,” he said. “We just clearly understand that it will probably be in the hundreds of thousands.”

But if visas were not forthcoming there were few alternatives, he said. “The backup plan is to urge (the government) to issue visas.”

Burma’s rulers are deeply suspicious of the outside world, particularly the West, but after years of mismanagement, corruption and self-imposed economic isolation, the country’s infrastructure is creaking at the best of times, and their ability to distribute huge quantities of supplies across a vast area in dire circumstances is highly questionable.

One aircraft arrived in Rangoon from Thailand with nine tonnes of food and medicine, but had to be unloaded by hand as no forklift trucks were available.

The World Food Programme began distributing 800 tons of food — a tiny amount relative to the scale of the disaster – in Rangoon, where supplies are running short, but its country director Chris Kaye said: “In order to meet the needs of the persons most badly affected by the disaster, much more cooperation will be required in the short term.”

The military government said a constitutional referendum that is part of its so-called “roadmap to democracy” would go ahead this weekend, except in the worst-affected areas. Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition National League for Democracy, which won elections in 1990 but has never been allowed to take power, said the decision was “extremely unacceptable”.

But analysts said the vote could give ordinary Burmese a safe way to protest against the generals’ handling of the disaster, after their bloody crackdown on protesting monks and civilians last year.

“The juxtaposition of the cyclone and the voting might cause many in Burma to feel this is an indication that the military should not be in power,” said David Steinberg, a Burma expert at Georgetown University in Washington.

Many Burmese are deeply traditionalist, he pointed out, and the disaster could be taken to mean the current rulers had lost the “mandate of heaven”.

In Rangoon, where monks and civilians were clearing the streets of debris, a man who refused to be identified added: “Where are all those uniformed people who are always ready to beat civilians? They should come out in full force and help clean up the areas and restore electricity.”

How you can donate:

A number of charities have launched appeals to help the Burmese in the wake of this weekend’s cyclone. You can donate online to the British Red Cross, www.redcross.org.uk (£5 will provide water purification tablets for 60 people), to Oxfam’s emergency fund, www.oxfam.co.uk, to Christian Aid, www.christianaid.org.uk, and Save the Children, www.savethechildren.org.uk.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/burmamyanmar/1933226/Burma-60%2C000-feared-dead-in-Cyclone-Nargis.html

Burma cyclone death toll could hit 63,000

Last updated: 6:53 PM BST 06/05/2008

Aid agencies are scrambling to mount a massive relief effort after military rulers in Burma, also known as Myanmar, said 22,464 people had been killed and a further 41,000 were missing feared dead after the weekend cyclone.

Foreign minister Nyan Win revealed that more than 10,000 people had been killed in a single town, Bogalay, as he gave the first detailed account of the scale of the disaster.

With the number of dead or missing growing by the hour a huge humanitarian crisis is looming with hundreds of thousands left homeless and without drinking water since Cyclone Nargis crashed into the coast on Saturday at 120mph, destroying entire villages and battering Rangoon.

As United Nations agencies warned of a disaster in the south-east Asian country, the normally isolationist dictatorship issued a rare appeal for international assistance.

The foreign minister asked Western diplomats for tents, medicine and water purification equipment.

“We will welcome help … from other countries, because our people are in difficulty,” he said.

A first shipment of aid is expected to leave neighbouring Thailand later today.

US President George W. Bush urged Burma’s military rulers to allow in international help, saying he was prepared to send navy ships to help the recovery.

“We want to do a lot more,” he said. “Our message is to the military rulers: let the United States come to help you, help the people.”

The White House later announced it was offering an additional three million dollars in aid, building on its initial offer of 250,000 dollars.

A Pentagon spokesman said the USS Essex, an amphibious assault ship with 1,800 marines aboard, and three other naval vessels were off the coast of Thailand and could be redirected to Burma if asked to do so.

But the junta insisted foreign aid teams would have to negotiate before being allowed to operate here, and many agencies said they were still waiting for visas to allow their staff into the country.

Social welfare minister Maung Maung Swe told reporters that most of the town of Bogalay, one of the delta areas that bore the brunt of the storm’s force, had simply been washed away.

“Ninety-five percent of the houses in Bogalay were destroyed,” he said. “Many people were killed in a 12-foot tidal wave.”

Satellite images from US space agency NASA showed virtually the entire coastal plain of the country, one of the poorest nations on the planet, under water.

The government also said it would proceed this weekend with a constitutional referendum as part of its slow-moving “road map” to democracy, except in the areas hardest hit by the disaster.

The head of the Asian Development Bank expressed his condolences to Burma over the country’s devastating cyclone, and said the institution would decide how best to respond.

“I would like to take a moment to offer, on behalf of all of us at ADB, our heartfelt condolences to the people of Myanmar who are struggling through the aftermath of Sunday’s cyclone with huge losses of life and property,” ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda said.

“We will work closely with shareholders and development partners to decide how best to respond,” he told a news conference at the end of a four-day annual ADB meeting in Madrid.

America’s First Lady Laura Bush called a press conference on Monday night to promise aid to Burma – the first reaction from the White House since the scale of the crisis became clear.

But she accused the junta of failing to warn its citizens via the state-run media of the danger they faced from the storm.

Mrs Bush also said it would be “odd” if the country went ahead with Saturday’s planned referendum.

UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon said the organisation “will do whatever (necessary) to provide urgent humanitarian assistance,” and stressed that a disaster management team was ready to leave for Burma.

Mr Ban’s chief of staff Vijay Nambiar met with Burma’s UN Ambassador Kyaw Tint Swe. The talks focused on prospects for urgent grant allocations from the UN’s $500 million Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), as well as communications and coordination support to assist aid delivery.

Gordon Brown pledged that Britain would do everything it could to ease the suffering in the disaster-hit state.

Speaking to an audience of business leaders in central London, the Prime Minister said: “I believe nearly a million people are now need in need of food aid and we will have to help the families of those where people have died.

“I want to pledge on behalf of the British Government that we will work with the whole international community to make sure that food aid is available to the people of Burma.”

But there were doubts about exactly how open the Burmese regime really is to foreign assistance. Diplomats asked ministers whether visas would be available to relief workers and whether duty would be waived on relief supplies. The ministers could give no such commitment.

The cyclone, which flattened thousands of buildings, ripped power lines, uprooted trees on key roads and disrupted water supplies, came days ahead of Saturday’s controversial referendum on a constitution which critics say will entrench military rule.

The junta has insisted that it would press ahead with the vote, but many in Rangoon said that they had other priorities.

The former capital, with a population of five million, took a direct hit. “We have no electricity, we have no water,” said one man.

Aid workers were meanwhile facing a desperate battle to help hundreds of thousands of Burmese.

Western diplomats told The Daily Telegraph that the government had failed to make it possible for United Nations agencies to move swiftly to bring relief to thousands left without drinking water and shelter.

A UN source said that the organisation can deliver the first supplies within 24 hours of an official request, which would open Burma’s tight borders to aid shipments. But he added that no such request had been received.

A Western diplomat, who asked not to be identified, said of the generals who rule the country: “They are incompetent. They don’t care.

“You’d have thought, with a military government, they would get cracking and sort it out, but somehow I don’t think it is going to be like that.”

An international aid worker based in Burma said: “Normally it takes two weeks to get permission to go into the field. At this point, they are not deviating from that procedure.”

Tropical cyclones are immensely powerful low-pressure weather systems capable of generating ten times as much energy as the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

Nargis devastated a vast swathe of the country after hitting the coast, flattening thousands of buildings, ripping power lines, uprooting trees on key roads and disrupting drinking water supplies.

Burmese state television said five regions with a combined population of 24 million people had been declared disaster zones.

Survivors in the worst-hit region, the densely populated Irrawaddy Delta, face a growing risk of disease and possibly hunger.

In Rangoon, the former capital and a city of five million people, the situation is dire after it took a direct hit from the storm.

The price of fuel has doubled since the cyclone struck, while many homes have been severely damaged and the water supply has collapsed.

Women came out on to the streets to wash clothes in the gutters when it rained last night. Broken trees and electricity poles littered the roads of the city.

There is also a danger that the price of food and other essentials could rapidly rise, adding to public discontent.

With the economy crippled by decades of misrule, and most people already struggling to meet their basic needs, many were quick to criticise the junta’s faltering response.

“We are really suffering, but the government don’t care, they are happy enough,” said one man.

Analysts believe that if the referendum goes ahead, there could be a significant “no” vote and blatant vote-rigging by the generals.

Circumstances exist for a political crisis to develop in what is already a dire humanitarian emergency. One diplomat said yesterday: “What on earth is going to happen to this poor country next?”

The devastation represents Asia’s worst natural disaster since the earthquake that killed more than 70,000 in Pakistan in 2005. The Boxing Day tsunami of 2004 killed more than 200,000 in Indonesia and across the Indian Ocean.

While the Red Cross has managed to distribute water purification tablets and mosquito nets, Save the Children estimated yesterday that more than 50,000 are without shelter in three towns in the Rangoon region alone. It said that people are camping out in schools, monasteries, churches and mosques.

Win Myint, 38, a resident of Rangoon, told how he had fled his home moments before a tree ploughed into his home.

He scooped up his two-month-old daughter and ran through driving rain and winds into the face of the storm to seek shelter at a Buddhist temple in the satellite city of Dagon.

“We had to run for our lives during the storm at 3 am on Saturday,” he said. “We were frightened. We have nothing now. I don’t even have milk powder for my daughter.

“She is sick now. I have no idea what we should do. We got some rice, salt and oil from the authorities. But of course it’s not enough.”

The cyclone toll in Asia

Nov 12, 1970, Bangladesh: The country’s deadliest cyclone destroys Chittagong and dozens of coastal villages, killing around 500,000 people.

Nov 19, 1977, India: More than 10,000 people die when cyclone hits south-east Andhra coast. It disrupts life for 5.4 million people and damages 3.5 million acres of arable land.

May 24, 1985, Bangladesh: 11,000 people die in cyclone that hit Chittagong, Cox’s Bazar and coastal islands.

April 29, 1991, Bangladesh: 143,000 people died after cyclone hits coast with 15ft tidal surge.

Oct 29, 1999, India: A “super-cyclone” hits the northeast state of Orissa, killing almost 10,000.

Nov 15, 2007, Bangladesh: Cyclone Sidr kills around 3,500.

May 3, 2008, Burma: Up to 10,000 feared dead and 3,000 more missing after cyclone hits Irrawaddy Delta and Rangoon.

Story from Telegraph News:
Information appearing on telegraph.co.uk is the copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited and must not be reproduced in any medium without licence.

Written by Lwin Aung Soe

May 7, 2008 at 6:52 am