Every day, an upgrade of the worst kind. Following Cyclone Nargis’s destruction, the death toll in Burma has reached more than 22,000. The US Embassy estimates it could climb to 100,000.
In the worst-affected area, the vast Irrawaddy delta in the south-west, witnesses speak of survivors walking for days past dead bodies to find help, reports BBC News.
Aid agencies worldwide are launching appeals for donations. But some people — like Tropical Ramblings — are worried that their donations won’t actually reach the people and that they’ll do more harm than good.
The situation is becoming more desperate. Villages are starting to see signs of disease. A community leader at the devastated town of Kungyangon warns of the growing threat, reports The Daily Telegraph. “If we don’t get help we will die here,” he told the paper. “…already diarrhea is beginning. Most of the people have diarrhea. We need good food and shelter to survive.”
The misery of bad fortune continues to pile up. Mangrove clearing over the last 150 years in Burma to make way for rice paddies has meant that the traditional buffer from the sea no longer offered as much protection to people — this is seen as one of the major reasons for the high death toll. Not only that but the Irrawaddy Delta, which provides much of the country’s rice and fish, has been decimated. So food shortages will be another major issue for aid agencies to deal with.
Meanwhile, the obfuscation of the junta continues. Monks have been helping to clear debris and feed the people, but the Burmese government has started cracking down on them. And while the military are providing tin roofs for people to start repairs, they’re charging for it.
Burmese junta gets in the way. While Buddhist monks were striving to save lives and aid survivors, the Burmese military authorities were attempting to prevent the monks from getting involved in relief efforts. Burmese military officials ordered monks not to use monasteries as safe houses for survivors and, according to journalists in Rangoon, the Ministry of Information ordered news agencies not to publish photographs of Buddhist monks aiding survivors, working in the streets or rebuilding homes…Meanwhile, local authorities in Rangoon began distributing tin roofing materials on Tuesday— some three days after the disaster—but not for free. And first, rooftops were only being provided to those with military connections. “You are survivor. But if you want a new roof for your house, you need to pay 4,900 kyat (US $4.29) to the authorities for the materials,” said a housewife in Rangoon. — The Irrawaddy
Worried about Buddha. To see the condition to which Kawhmu has been reduced you would think that its people had enough to worry about. But among all the devastation that has rained down on the village one thing preoccupies them above all. It is not the toppling of the trees and the inundation of the fields, or even the destruction of their simple houses, which lie like broken crates along the road through the Irrawaddy delta. The object at which everyone points is the gleaming Buddhist pagoda which towers 80ft (25m) above the village. The top ten feet, the spire and vane and gilt umbrellas that symbolise the attainment of nirvana, have been lopped clean off. — Kenneth Denby, The Times
To send aid or not to send aid? As there was a holiday [in Thailand] yesterday, Burma’s embassy was closed and not offering visas for aid workers — quite an unimaginable bureaucratic failure in light of the possibility, that much more than 30,000 people might have been killed and most of the current rice crop devastated. My personal feeling would be NOT to give money to aid organizations; initially harsh for the population affected, but it is very doubtful that any help will reach them and secondly, it further solidifies the hold of the junta on Burma — which must be broken or suffering on a much larger scale will follow. The choosing of the lesser evil… — Tropical Ramblings
The great indifference. The Government was aware of the approaching calamity but chose not to provide adequate warning though the state-run media. It would be difficult to find a greater indictment of the regime than this. It is another example of the callous and continuing persecution of its people and this criminal lack of openness has exacerbated an already terrible humanitarian disaster. But when a government makes itself unaccountable to its own people, there is no imperative to act in their best interests. This has been further demonstrated by the regime’s decision to proceed with Saturday’s referendum on a new constitution — except for those areas affected by the cyclone — when it should be doing all it can to deal with this massive natural disaster. — Graham Reilly, The Age
The rice problem. Before Friday’s devastating cyclone, Tin Maung Htoo remembered the Irrawaddy delta as a place full of trees and lush paddies that supplied most of Myanmar’s rice and fish. “This is the area that feeds the whole country,” said Mr. Htoo, the executive director of Canadian Friends of Burma. As of yesterday, he still hadn’t heard from any of his three brothers living in Rangoon, in the delta’s eastern-most region, the area that was ground zero for cyclone Nargis … The Rangoon region and Irrawaddy delta were once known as the “rice bowl of Asia.” The delta is a triangle of fertile land, mangrove swamps and tidal estuaries at the mouth of the Irrawaddy, Myanmar’s longest river and its most important trade artery.– Globe and Mail