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100,000 may have died in cyclone


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Adrienne
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« on: May 07, 2008, 01:03:24 pm »



100,000 may have died in cyclone

The death toll from the cyclone that ravaged Myanmar may exceed 100,000, the U.S. Charge D'Affaires in Yangon said today. "The information we are receiving indicates over 100,000 deaths," Shari Villarosa said. Villarosa heads the U.S. embassy in the capital Rangoon. developing story
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Adrienne
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« Reply #1 on: May 07, 2008, 01:05:07 pm »

U.S. envoy: Myanmar deaths may top 100,000

Story Highlights
NEW: U.S. diplomat says cyclone death toll may be more than 100,000

Aid groups and countries frustrated by their lack of access to Myanmar

U.N. says hungry survivors have stormed a few reopened shops

Experts predict the survivors will face long-term food shortages


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YANGON, Myanmar (CNN) -- The death toll from the cyclone that ravaged the Irrawaddy delta in Myanmar may exceed 100,000, the senior U.S. diplomat in the military-ruled country said Wednesday.




A girl drinks water from a container as her homeless family eat donated food in the outskirts of Yangon on May 7.

1 of 3more photos   "The information we are receiving indicates over 100,000 deaths," the U.S. Charge D'Affaires in Yangon, Shari Villarosa, said on a conference call.

The U.S. figure is almost five times more than the 22,000 the Myanmar government has estimated.

Little aid has reached the area since Cyclone Nargis hit last weekend, and on Wednesday crowds of hungry survivors stormed reopened shops in the devastated Irrawaddy delta.

The United Nations urged the military junta to grant visas to international relief workers amid estimates of one million homeless.

Charity workers have gathered at Myanmar's embassy in Bangkok, Thailand, with vehicles, emergency food supplies and medicine, waiting for their visa requests to be approved.

"We need this to move much faster," said John Holmes, UN humanitarian chief, after reading a statement from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

There were earlier reports of "civil unrest" in the worst-hit areas where people are scrambling for limited food supplies, a U.N. spokesman told CNN.

In the flood-soaked Irrawaddy delta townships, U.N. assessment teams observed "large crowds gathering around shops -- the few that were open -- literally fighting over the chance to buy what food was available," World Food Program spokesman Paul Risley said Wednesday from his office in Bangkok.

There were also also reports of price gouging in urban areas around Yangon, Myanmar's largest city and former capital.  See amateur video of the cyclone's impact.

"There were long lines of people trying to buy what food was available, even at those higher prices," Risley said.

The delta, Myanmar's rice-growing heartland, has been devastated by Cyclone Nargis, threatening long-term food shortages for survivors, experts said.

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"We can't delay on this -- this is a huge disaster and the longer (Myanmar) waits the worse it's going to become," International Rescue Committee spokesman Gregory Beck said.

The Rome-based U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that five states hit hardest by Saturday's cyclone produce 65 percent of the country's rice, The Associated Press reported.

"There is likely going to be incredible shortages in the next 18 to 24 months," Sean Turnell, an economist specializing in Myanmar at Australia's Macquarie University told AP.

Holmes said 24 countries had pledged financial support, with a total of $30 million expected in aid.

The WFP, which has started feeding the estimated one million homeless, said there were immediate concerns about salvaging harvested rice in the flooded Irrawaddy delta.  An iReporter documents the destruction

The cyclone battered the country with winds of 240kph (150mph) and 3.5 meter (11.48 feet) storm water surges.

Damage was also extensive in the country's largest city, Yangon. Much of the former capital is without power and littered with debris and fallen trees.  See photos of the destruction

CNN's Dan Rivers, the first Western journalist into the devastated town of Bogalay, said Wednesday that it was difficult to find the words to describe the level of destruction.  Watch Rivers' report from Bogalay

"Ninety percent of the houses have been flattened... the help that these people are getting seems to be pretty much nonexistent from what we've seen."

He saw members of Myanmar's army clearing roads, but handing out little food or medicine.

"There has been scant help, really. I think we saw one or two Red Cross vehicles in the entire time we were driving," Rivers said of his travels over a 12-hour period.  Learn more about Myanmar

Hundreds of World Vision staff are already in Myanmar with limited supplies, according to Bangkok spokesman James East.

Tons of supplies have been readied in Dubai and can be brought in quickly once clearance is given.

"Even when aid comes in, it's going to be a logistical nightmare to get it out to the remote delta region," East said.

However, Yangon is almost back to normal, World Vision health adviser Dr. Kyi Minn said. Roads have been cleared of debris, and electricity and potable water are available.

The Myanmar Red Cross has been handing out relief supplies, such as clean drinking water, plastic sheeting, clothing, insecticide-treated bed nets to help prevent malaria, and kitchen items, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said.  Watch the cyclone's destruction

The United States has pledged $3.25 million and offered to send Navy ships to the region to help relief efforts -- if Myanmar's government agrees.

The U.S. military has flown six cargo helicopters onto a Thai airbase, as Washington awaits permission to go into the south Asian country, two senior military officials told CNN's Barbara Starr.


Other countries and world bodies including Britain, Japan, the European Union, China, India, Thailand, Australia, Canada and Bangladesh have also pitched in.

Based on a satellite map made available by the U.N., the storm's damage was concentrated over about a 30,000-square-kilometer area along the Andaman Sea and Gulf of Martaban coastlines, home to nearly a quarter of Myanmar's 57 million people.  Watch as some aid arrives in Myanmar

Copyright 2008 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/asiapcf/05/07/myanmar.aidcyclone/index.html
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Adrienne
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« Reply #2 on: May 07, 2008, 01:06:16 pm »



A homeless woman cooks food for her family next to destroyed houses in Konegyangone township on May 7.




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Monique Faulkner
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« Reply #3 on: May 08, 2008, 11:04:19 am »

Rotting corpses pile up as Myanmar stalls on aid

Story Highlights
Rotting corpses pile up in Myanmar as junta accused of dragging feet

NEW: Myanmar TV reports aid from six countries landed in Yangon

WFP plane lands in devastated country, status of other flights uncertain

Lack of clean water, food and medical supplies prompt disease fears


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YANGON, Myanmar (CNN) -- Myanmar's cyclone survivors have insufficient fuel to burn the rotting corpses of the dead as the ruling military junta is accused of being too slow in letting aid groups into the country.




A child sleeps on the floor as cyclone-affected families shelter in a school in western Yangon.

1 of 3more photos   Relief agencies say decomposing corpses litter ditches and fields in the worst-hit Irrawaddy delta area as survivors try to conserve fuel for transporting much-needed supplies.

The international community is growing increasingly frustrated with the junta's lack of progress in granting visas for relief workers and giving clearance for aid flights to land.

They are concerned the lack of medical supplies and clean food and water threatens to increase the already staggering death toll.

Myanmar's military government says more than 22,000 people died when the killer cyclone battered the country's low-lying delta region over the weekend. The top U.S. diplomat in the country has said the toll could top 100,000.

The isolated government has begun allowing more aid agencies into the country Thursday to respond to the dire needs of cyclone victims.

Myanmar Radio and Television (MRTV) announced that shipments from Bangladesh, China, India, Singapore, Italy and Thailand arrived at Yangon's international airport.

The station said the military was using helicopters to deliver medicine, food and generators throughout the Irrawaddy delta, specifically along the areas around Bassein and Pyapon.

But aid workers from the United Nations and other organizations were still concerned that supplies weren't getting into the country fast enough.

A World Food Programme plane carrying high-energy biscuits landed in Myanmar on Thursday to provide a small dose of assistance amid a mushrooming humanitarian crisis.

"We have gotten valuable cooperation. The first steps have been taken," WFP spokeswoman Bettina Luescher told CNN Thursday morning. "But it's taking too long. It needs to go much quicker.

"We have lots of experience in situations like these. We know how to do this," Luescher said. "We just need the cooperation."

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Paul Risley, another WFP spokesman, told CNN there were reports of "civil unrest" in the worst-hit areas where people were scrambling for limited food supplies.

He said U.N. assessment teams had observed "large crowds gathering around shops -- the few that were open -- literally fighting over the chance to buy what food was available."

There are also reports of price gouging in urban areas around Yangon, Myanmar's largest city and former capital, Risley said.

The delta region had few roads to begin with, many of them were now under water and the storm had washed away numerous bridges, said Shari Villarosa, the U.S. charge d'affaires in Yangon.

 Look at satellite pictures of the damage by the flooding

CNN's Dan Rivers, one of the few international journalists to have visited the hardest-hit areas of Myanmar, said relief had not reached the people who needed it most.

"We're hearing dreadful stories of hundreds of dead bodies left lying in the fields, decomposing," he said. "These people need help immediately."

China urges Myanmar junta to 'open up'

China on Thursday urged close ally Myanmar to work with the international community to help overcome the disaster.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said China hoped the country would "cooperate with the international community" to help overcome the disaster quickly.

The U.S has also been pushing for access, pledging $3.25 million and offering to send U.S. Navy ships to the region to help relief efforts.

The U.S. military had already flown six helicopters on to a Thai airbase, as Washington awaits permission to go into the south Asian country, two senior military officials told CNN's Barbara Starr.

Eric John, the U.S. ambassador to Thailand, told The Associated Press Thursday that they had still not been given permission to send relief flights to Myanmar despite reports to the contrary.

The U.S. and other nations do not recognize the military junta -- which maintained control of the country even after 1990, when an opposition political party won victory in democratic elections. The country's name was changed from Burma to Myanmar in 1989.  Learn more about Myanmar's recent history

Aid strategy: Don't 'flood' Yangon

Gregory Beck, of the International Rescue Committee, said the struggle to get aid workers and supplies into the country continued.

"We can't delay on this -- this is a huge disaster and the longer [Myanmar] waits the worse it's going to become."  Watch a report from Rivers on the growing desperation in Myanmar

Myanmar's government has asked for international aid, but the junta has balked at allowing assessment teams into the country -- a step that most agencies and countries take before deciding how much and what kind of aid to provide.

The strategy is not to "flood Yangon" with aid workers, but get 30 to 40 experienced U.N staffers into the country, according to Richard Horsey, a spokesman for the U.N.'s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

"It's quality over quantity," he said from his office in Bangkok.

Horsey said Myanmar's government "is more open to goods" rather than aid workers, but said it was understandable considering the military regime's "reticence to engage with the international community." But he pointed out that such a major disaster "would overwhelm any government."

Horsey said the regime had provided a number of helicopters and a larger number of boats to the relief effort.

He said the main hurdle was getting them into the flood-soaked delta, where nearly 5,000 square kilometers (2,000 square miles) remained underwater.

"When vast areas are flooded.. helicopters can't land," Horsey said. "When you get down to the tip of the delta, it's not much above sea level. When you get a major storm surge ... it doesn't drain back again."

The problem, he said, was compounded by the current monsoon period in South Asia.

One of the hardest-hit areas is Pyinzalu, a small town on the tip of the Irrawaddy delta, which has not fully recovered from the 2004 tsunami, according to World Vision health advisor Dr. Kyi Minn in Yangon.

Survivors from the delta villages described bodies along the road and floating in the rivers as they walked more than 100 kilometers to Yangon. That, Minn said, has had a significant mental impact on the survivors.


Yangon was pretty much back to normal, he said. Roads had been cleared of debris, and electricity and potable water were available.  Watch a report on the damage to Myanmar's infrastructure

World Vision, which has 500 aid workers in Myanmar, has provided aid in the country for more than 40 years. In a rare move, Myanmar's junta specifically asked World Vision to help provide aid to cyclone survivors.

Copyright 2008 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.
http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/asiapcf/05/08/myanmar/index.html
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Monique Faulkner
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« Reply #4 on: May 09, 2008, 10:36:30 am »

U.N. 'furious' as Myanmar aid 'seized'

Story Highlights
NEW: U.N. top WFP official in Asia "furious" over Myanmar aid seizure

U.N. says cyclone-hit Myanmar has confiscated aid shipments

Spokesman say move will shut down U.N. aid flights into country

Australian PM says Myanmar behaving "appallingly" over foreign access


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BANGKOK, Thailand (CNN) -- A top United Nations official says he is "furious" over the Myanmar's government's refusal to allow the organization to distribute aid flown in for cyclone disaster victims. Future flights have been suspended by the U.N.




Cyclone survivors pictured Thursday at a hospital in the Irrawaddy Delta.

1 of 4more photos   Two planes that landed Friday morning in Rangon carrying 38 tons of high-energy biscuits, medical kits and other items were seized by officials at Yangon International Airport, said Tony Banbury of the U.N.'s World Food Program.

The cargo is enough to feed 95,000 people, he said.

"We off-loaded the food, and then the authorities refused us permission to take that food away.

"We were told we needed a special letter from the Minister of Social Welfare. We hand-delivered a request to him. The answer back was 'No, you can't have the food.'

"That food is now sitting on the tarmac doing no good."

Under U.N. rules, the organization must control and distribute its aid supplies.

"I'm furious. This is unacceptable," Banbury said.

As many as 6 million people lived in the Irrawaddy Delta, the low-lying region that bore the brunt of the storm. More than 2,000 square miles of land are under water.

The Myanmar government says last week's cyclone killed 22,000 people, but the top U.S. envoy in the country says the death toll may exceed 100,000. Thousands are without food, shelter and clean water, and aid workers say boats and helicopters are needed to reach remote areas.

As the delivery of aid supplies lags, the possibility of diseases such as malaria rises, medical authorities say.  Watch how some aid is getting through

Friday's move by the Myanmar military government comes one day before a national constitutional referendum that would strengthen the power of the military junta.

The government delayed voting in areas most ravaged by last Saturday's cyclone, but, despite urging by U.N. General-Secretary Ban Ki-moon, refused to cancel the balloting countrywide. Ban told authorities it may be "prudent" to focus their resources on emergency response efforts.

Political observers note that Myanmar has been isolated from outside influences since the military began ruling the country in 1962.  Look at satellite pictures of the damage by the flooding

Referring to the government's actions on Friday, the Asia director of the World Food Program, said, "This is another example of them actively getting in the way of relief getting to the victims."

Asked whether the move would jeopardize future U.N. aid flights, Banbury said, "absolutely, from our perspective, it shuts them down."

The two aircraft that few into Yangon on Friday were carrying 38 tons of high-energy biscuits, six portable warehouses, and an unspecified number of emergency health kits,. The food is sufficient to feed 95,000 people for one day.

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All of it was seized at the airport in Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar, widely known by its former name of Burma. One plane originated in Bangladesh and the other, the United Arab Emirates.

On Saturday, the United Nations had been planning three further aid flights, from UAE, India and Cambodia. Those planes would carry tons of biscuits, emergency ready-to-eat meals, and logistical support and equipment, such as boats, to reach isolated areas.

The United Nations has had a program in Myanmar, where there are 15 international and 225 local staffers.

One senior U.S. military official told CNN that the United States was presenting Myanmar with an aid plan that would minimize the presence of American troops on the ground.

The United States is proposing that C-130s fly into the Myanmar carrying U.N. supplies. The planes would drop supplies off and then turn around and leave. But they would conduct as many flights as possible.

The United States is also proposing that Navy helicopters already in Thailand and on board U.S. Navy ships in the region fly supplies to remote areas. The helicopters would conduct low-level flights and air-drop the supplies but not touch the ground.

Four U.S. Navy ships are now moving to a region offshore Myanmar. They are the USS Essex, USS Juneau, USS Harpers Ferry and USS Mustin. Some U.S. Marines are ashore in Thailand for an exercise but could readily be moving to relief operations.

Paul Risley, a spokesman for the U.N. World Food Program, told CNN the agency has never encountered such resistance to offers of help in such a mushrooming humanitarian crisis.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the military junta in Myanmar has behaved "appallingly" by declining to grant more visas to relief workers.


"This has never happened before," he said Friday.

To complicate matters, Myanmar's embassy in Bangkok, Thailand -- where aid groups have been waiting for days for entry permission -- was closed Friday for a holiday.
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CNN's Hugh Rimington in Bangkok and Barbara Starr in Washington contributed to this report.

Copyright 2008 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/asiapcf/05/09/myanmar/index.html
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