Tuesday, May 06, 2008
We Can Feel & Understand Their Pain
Formerly known as Burma, the country of Myanmar is reeling from a Cyclone Nargis, which wielded maximum sustained winds around 130 mph with gusts ranging from 150-160 mph. This made it a strong Category 3 or minimal Category 4 storm on the Saffir-Simpson Scale.
Many people were killed in a 12-foot tidal wave.
The cyclone pummeled Yangon for more than 10 hours from Friday night into Saturday, with 20 inches of rain. Reminiscent of claims immediately following Katrina, there are news reports of up to 40,000 killed.
Video from the scene showed residents in some areas hacking their way through downed trees and trudging through knee-deep, swirling brown water. Thousands of tropical trees had been ripped up and thrown down, some into roadways.
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, a private organization.
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.
While Myanmar's ruling military junta has been accused of not warning the public about the approaching cyclone, witnesses say state media did report the storm -- it just came too late.
Officials said they would open the doors of their closed and tightly controlled nation to international relief groups. So far, most foreigners and all foreign journalists have been barred from entering the country.
Witnesses and residents said the military had been slow to respond to the devastation of the cyclone, and some suggested that the government’s performance could affect the vote in an upcoming election for a new consititution.
Residents of the country, formerly known as Burma, said that they were being pressured to vote “yes” and that riot police officers had been patrolling the streets before the cyclone in a show of force that was more visible than their relief efforts afterward.
Here's a link for organizations accepting donations to help.
• International Committee of the Red Cross
• World Food Programme
• Save the Children
• World Vision
• International Rescue Committee