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    Burma cyclone disaster: UN says 102,000 dead

    Burma declares cyclone disaster



    Details are still limited because the storm damaged telecommunications


    Burma has declared five regions as disaster areas, including the main city Rangoon, after a large tropical cyclone hit the country, state media report.
    The military-run Myaddy television station said Irrawaddy, Bago, Karen and Mon states were also hit hard by winds of about 190km/h (120mph).
    Cyclone Nargis is reported to have killed at least four people in Rangoon.
    The city is without power and water, and the streets are full of debris from fallen trees and damaged buildings.
    The cyclone is now moving into Thailand where storm warnings have been issued.
    However, it appears to be lessening in force.


    'Lot of damage'
    Internet and phone connections have been down since the storm neared the former Burmese capital, making it difficult to confirm the extent of the damage.



    In the Irrawaddy river delta, more than half of the buildings had been damaged or had collapsed, official newspapers reported.
    Official media also reported that four vessels had sunk in Rangoon harbour.
    A UN regional official told Reuters news agency it would take several days to assess the scale of the damage.
    "There does not seem to be a high number of casualties but for sure there is a lot of damage to property and infrastructure," Therje Skavdal said, speaking from Bangkok.
    Military and police units have been deployed in Rangoon to help clear up the damage, an official at the information ministry said.
    "So far we know there were casualties [deaths], but we cannot release the details yet as we are still collecting information," he told AFP news agency.
    News of the four deaths in Rangoon was reported in state newspapers.


    'Like Katrina'
    A UN official, speaking anonymously, told The Associated Press:


    Where are all those uniformed people who are always ready to beat civilians? They should come out... and help clean up...
    Rangoon trishaw driver

    "It's a bad situation. Almost all the houses are smashed. People are in a terrible situation.
    "All the roads are blocked. There is no water. There is no electricity."
    Many roofs were reportedly ripped off even sturdy buildings in Rangoon.
    "I have never seen anything like it," one retired government worker told Reuters.
    "It reminded me of when Hurricane Katrina hit the United States."
    A trishaw driver in Rangoon, who did not want to be identified, complained that the security forces were not doing enough to help.
    "Where are all those uniformed people who are always ready to beat civilians?" he said.
    "They should come out in full force and help clean up the areas and restore electricity."



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    Re: Burma declares cyclone disaster

    Burma cyclone death toll 'at 243'




    A tropical cyclone has killed at least 243 people in Burma and damaged thousands of buildings, according to state television.
    Parts of the Irrawaddy region were hit particularly badly, with three out of four buildings blown down in one district.
    Burma has declared Irrawaddy and four other regions, including the main city Rangoon, to be disaster areas.
    Rangoon has been without power and water, its streets full of debris.
    Winds of about 190km/h (120mph) battered the Irrawaddy, Rangoon, Bago, Karen and Mon regions.
    Military and police personnel have been carrying out rescue operations
    Cyclone Nargis has since moved towards Thailand where storm warnings have been issued. However, it appears to be lessening in force.

    Phone links down
    In Irrawaddy's Labutta township, 75% of buildings collapsed and 20% had their roofs ripped off, state TV said.

    Video Footage

    In the Irrawaddy delta region as a whole, the cyclone brought down more than 20,000 houses.
    In Rangoon, internet and phone connections have been down since the storm drew near, making it difficult to confirm the extent of the damage.
    Official media report that four people were killed and four vessels sank in the former Burmese capital's harbour.
    A UN regional official told Reuters news agency it would take several days to assess the scale of the damage.
    "There does not seem to be a high number of casualties but for sure there is a lot of damage to property and infrastructure," Therje Skavdal said, speaking from Bangkok.


    Abridged from BBC News
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    Re: Burma declares cyclone disaster

    Update

    Burma cyclone death toll 'at 351'

    A tropical cyclone has killed at least 351 people in Burma and damaged thousands of buildings, according to state television.

    Parts of the Irrawaddy region were hit particularly badly, with three out of four buildings reportedly blown down in one district.

    The latest death toll of 351 includes at least 109 people who lived on Haing-gyi island, off the south-west coast, officials say.

    About 20,000 homes have been destroyed and 90,000 people made homeless on the island alone, a government official said.

    The death toll is expected to rise further, as the situation is remote areas becomes clear.

    In Thailand where storm warnings have been issued. However, it appears to be lessening in force.

    In Rangoon, internet and phone connections have been down since the storm drew near, making it difficult to confirm the extent of the damage.

    One Rangoon resident described the damage in the city for the BBC Burmese service: "Everything was wrecked. Roofs of the houses and satellite dishes were blown away."

    A Rangoon-based diplomat quoted by Reuters news agency described the city as an "utter war zone".

    Anthony Craig, a regional official of the UN World Food Programme based in Thailand, said that judging from the damage caused to solid buildings in Rangoon, damage elsewhere was likely to be extensive.

    "We're seeing a lot of trees down, a lot of billboards blown away, roofs of houses gone, so that is worrying when you consider the type of construction that is there, compared to the type of construction that is elsewhere," Mr Craig told the BBC.

    Abridged from BBC News.
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    Re: Burma declares cyclone disaster: At least 351 dead

    Thank you for the update, Khun Don.

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    Re: Burma declares cyclone disaster: At least 351 dead

    Aid effort for cyclone-hit Burma



    Many people have been left without drinking water and shelter


    Some aid is beginning to reach victims of the cyclone that hit Burma on Saturday, killing hundreds of people and leaving tens of thousands homeless.

    Both Burmese officials and international agencies are working to assess the scale of the disaster, with five regions declared disaster zones.
    More than 350 people were killed and thousands of buildings destroyed by the storm, state media said.

    But a referendum on a new constitution will still go ahead on 10 May, it said.
    "The referendum is only a few days away and the people are eagerly looking forward to voting," the government said in a statement carried by state media.
    Burma's leaders say the referendum will pave the way for multi-party elections in 2010, but critics say the charter is aimed primarily at further entrenching military rule.

    'Not accessible'
    UN and international aid agencies are meeting today in the Thai capital, Bangkok, to co-ordinate their response to the disaster.

    The military regime is ill-prepared to deal with the aftermath of the cyclone

    Naing Aung, Forum for Democracy in Burma

    But Terje Skavdal, regional head of the UN office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said that understanding the scale of the damage would take time.
    "The government is having as much trouble as anyone else in getting a full overview," he told Reuters news agency.
    "Roads are not accessible and many small villages were hit and will take time to reach."
    Movements of foreign aid workers are restricted in military-ruled Burma, so most agencies use teams of local staff.
    Mr Skavdal said the UN would "have a dialogue with the government to try to get access to the people affected."




    In pictures: Burma cyclone

    The Red Cross, meanwhile, said teams were distributing emergency supplies including water and blankets in the worst-hit Irrawaddy region.
    "We went out as soon as possible but there were problems with mobility due to a lot of debris and power lines down," spokesman Michael Annear told the French news agency AFP.

    "Authorities and the local community have been clearing the road networks so mobility has increased today."
    Naing Aung, secretary general of the Thailand-based Forum for Democracy in Burma, said international help was urgently required.
    "The military regime is ill-prepared to deal with the aftermath of the cyclone," he said.

    'Villages flattened'
    Tropical Cyclone Nargis hit the country two days ago with winds of speeds reaching 190km/h (120 mph).

    In Rangoon, roofs were blown off buildings and electricity supplies cut.
    Shari Villarosa, the leading US diplomat in the city, said the storm had caused devastation.
    "The Burmese are saying they have never seen anything like this, ever," she told the Associated Press news agency.

    Rescue workers have yet to reach some of the worst-hit areas of the country, including the low-lying Irrawaddy delta region, which was also hit by a storm surge.
    "The villages there have reportedly been completely flattened," said Chris Kaye, the UN's acting humanitarian co-ordinator in Rangoon.

    Abridged from BBC News.
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    Re: Burma declares cyclone disaster: At least 351 dead

    Country 'ravaged': Thais and Tourists safe: Contact phone numbers

    The Thai Ambassador to Burma said early on Monday that killer Cyclone Nargis wreaked severe damage in Rangoon. All Thais are reported safe but an emergency telephone number has been established: 02-354-6200, Ext 116, 119, and 120.

    There were no reports of Thai deaths in the freak storm but at least 100 Thai tourists are stranded, as all flights are cancelled.

    The embassy said there are about 400 Thai nationals working in the country. Those wishing to contact relatives on emergency matters can telephone the Thai embassy via 02 354 6200 ext. 116, 119 and 120

    As of late Sunday, Thai Airways International was still unable to operate flights to Rangoon as a result of infrastructure damage as well as weather conditions, he said.

    The Thai embassy has set up an emergency service and sent out teams to visit Thai nationals who either work or happened to be visiting the country.

    Over 100 Thai tourists were stranded in various hotels, but all are reported to be safe.

    (BangkokPost.com, TNA)
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    Re: Burma declares cyclone disaster: At least 4000 dead

    Burma's storm toll 'nears 4,000'

    Many people have been left without drinking water and shelter

    The death toll in Burma has reached nearly 4,000 people following a cyclone that hit the country on Saturday, state media say.

    Reports say more than 3,900 people have been killed and almost 3,000 more are missing. Earlier on Monday, state media said the death toll stood at 351.

    According to an announcement on state television, the toll of more than 3,900 referred to deaths in the country's largest city, Rangoon, and the Irrawaddy region.


    State media said a further 2,879 people were missing and 41 injured.


    The figures may rise as rescue workers get through to outlying districts that have been cut off from the outside world, correspondents say.


    UN disaster response official Richard Horsey said several hundred thousand people were in need of shelter and clean drinking water.


    Abridged from BBC News.
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    Re: Burma declares cyclone disaster: At least 4000 dead

    Thailand sends cash, relief to stricken Burma

    The Foreign Ministry has donated US$50,000 and the military has offered dried food and medicines to help Burma to recover from the damage of Cyclone Nargis, which hit the country last week, Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama said on Monday.

    Mr Noppadon said that Thai tourists who were stranded in Rangoon and Mandalay had returned home safely, while about 400 Thais now working in the former capital Rangoon were also safe from the deadly disaster.

    The Thai embassy is now providing special care to the workers, he said.

    Thailand plans to send an Air Force C-130 military transport with nine tonnes of relief supplies for cyclone victims. The special flight is expected to depart from Bangkok Tuesday morning.

    Mr Noppadon said he would inform the cabinet during the weekly meeting on Tuesday so that more assistance could be handed out to the neighbouring country. (TNA)

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    Re: Burma declares cyclone disaster: 10,000 believed dead

    Myanmar believes at least 10,000 dead in cyclone - diplomat

    BANGKOK (Reuters) - Myanmar's military government has a provisional death toll of 10,000 from this weekend's devastating cyclone, with another 3,000 missing, a diplomat said on Monday after a briefing from Foreign Minister Nyan Win.

    "The basic message was that they believe the provisional death toll was about 10,000 with 3,000 missing," a diplomat present at the meeting told Reuters in Bangkok.

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    Re: Burma declares cyclone disaster: 10,000 believed dead

    Disaster tests Burma's junta
    By Kate McGeown
    Asia-Pacific editor, BBC News website




    Eyewitnesses complain that the official response has been inadequate


    Until Saturday, a common view among Burmese people was that life could not get much worse.
    The country had been sliding ever deeper into poverty, and after the anti-government protests in September were brutally quashed, the prospect of an end to military rule seemed ever more remote.
    Even the junta's planned referendum on its long-awaited constitution, scheduled to take place on 10 May, did not sound promising - with accusations of vote-rigging and intimidation marring the government's claim it would be a step towards democracy.

    But no-one could not have predicted there would be yet another blow in store for the Burmese people - this time from the forces of nature.
    According to the latest government estimates, more than 10,000 people may have died in Saturday's cyclone, which has devastated large swathes of the south, including the main city Rangoon.
    Several hundred thousand people are thought to be in need of shelter and drinking water.

    Whatever they think of their leaders right now, the people of Burma desperately need their help.
    And for a government which is already under intense pressure to reform and justify its grip on power to the international community, coping with a disaster of this magnitude is a crucial test.

    'Just standing around'
    Initial indications show the military junta is not coping at all well.



    Large parts of southern Burma have been flooded (image: Myanmar TV)


    The few civilians who have been able to get through to the outside world since the disaster talk of a slow, inadequate response.
    "The USDA [the civilian arm of the military junta] have turned up but they're not really doing anything - they're just standing around," one woman told the BBC.

    Former Swedish government minister Jens Orback, who was in Rangoon at the time, said there had been no help from the authorities "for the first 10 to 12 hours".

    "There were no policemen and no military on the streets but people were privately out there with their hand-saws, chopping the trees," he said.
    State-run television has shown footage of troops working to clear streets but in reality many areas have yet to receive any help from the military, according to Aung Zaw, the editor of Irrawaddy, a publication run by Burmese journalists in exile in Thailand.
    "The soldiers are only helping people near the military facilities; downtown Rangoon is like a ghost town," he said.

    International help
    But now the scale of the disaster is more apparent - the authorities increased their estimate of the death toll from 350 to 10,000 on Monday - the government has finally admitted it cannot cope alone.



    Late on Monday the United Nations confirmed that Burma had agreed to accept international assistance.
    Several aid agencies, such as World Vision, Save the Children and the World Food Programme, are already being given access to affected areas and have plans to airlift large qualities of supplies into the country in the coming days.

    The international community will be watching closely to see how many restrictions the government will place on this aid distribution.
    Karen state in the east and Arakan state in the south-west, which borders the Irrawaddy delta, have been closed to foreigners for years, amid reports of abject poverty and repression of ethnic minorities.
    There will doubtless be intense international pressure to allow urgent supplies into these areas as soon as possible.

    Postponing the vote?
    The international spotlight was already on Burma, even before the cyclone.



    Even if we use our own pumps we can't get any water out of the mains. Rangoon resident



    Eyewitness reports

    In the wake of the crackdown on monks and other anti-government demonstrators in September, there has been a constant stream of calls by Western governments urging Burma to move towards democracy. After 15 years of stalling, Senior General Than Shwe recently announced that a new draft constitution had been completed, and would be put to a referendum to pave the way for democratic elections in 2010.

    This referendum is due on 10 May - less than a week away - and to many analysts' surprise, the government has shown no sign of postponing it because of the cyclone.
    In fact, according to the state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper on Monday, "the entire people of the country are eagerly looking forward" to the poll.

    Aung Naing Oo, a Burma analyst based in Thailand, said the government probably wanted to go ahead with the referendum because a postponement would give the opposition more time to drum up support for its campaign for a "no" vote.

    But Aung Zaw from Irrawaddy magazine believes that holding the poll as planned might prove a bad idea for the military rulers, due to the level of public anger at their handling of the cyclone disaster.
    The truth is that, right now, people living in large swat
    hes of southern Burma probably do not care much either way about the referendum.

    While there is undoubtedly a desire for political change, as shown by the strength of the protests last September, there is currently a much more urgent need - that of basic survival.
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