Myanmar: Bloggers discuss cyclone disaster
Mong Palatino is South East Asia editor of Global Voices, which monitors citizen media in the developing world. Thomson Reuters is not responsible for the content of this post — the views are the author’s alone.
Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar last weekend which devastated five regions. State-run media reported that more than 22,000 people are found dead with another 41,000 missing. Hundreds of thousands are now homeless. The following is a collection of quotes from regional bloggers about the devastation.
Bangkok Pundit comments on the soaring number of casualties:
“It was 351 then 4,000, then 10,000. Now, even state media are reporting 22,000 dead and 41,000 missing. By the time this is all over, a death toll of over 100,000 is not improbable. The Burmese government can’t handle the situation on their own.”
Indeed, the death toll could still rise. The Irrawaddy explains:
“Witnesses who have managed to get out of Laputta Township in the Irrawaddy Delta have told The Irrawaddy that 22 villages were completely destroyed and that the death toll could be much higher. A local source from Laputta Township estimated a total of 60,000 people could have been killed by the cyclone. This estimate could not be independently confirmed.”
Rule of Lords gathers eyewitness accounts of the disaster:
“Some were killed by flying trees, some from exposure to the cold, some died when they had gathered to shelter from the storms in monasteries and they collapsed.
“The sea rose by around 5 feet and swamped the town at the time of the storm, causing most of the damage and sweeping away small homes and buildings.
“There was water, rain and wind. The shore road was submerged and on the high ground the water was at knee level. The whole town was underwater. There were heavy waves all over, and water snakes. Some died from the snakes.
“Local people in Rangoon and monks have cleared roads themselves due to the lack of authorities. The clearing has been done by a system of “self reliance” according to one participant. People are also sharing small quantities of water and other essentials among themselves to get through this period.”
Myat Thura describes how his family and neighbors are coping with the tragedy:
“I tried to call my home in Yangon since Saturday morning. Until Friday evening, I could still call my home. My father told me that the wind was blowing heavily, but the situation was still OK. The next morning when I tried to call my home, the lines are already down. I tried the whole Saturday but I could not get through. Sunday morning, still no phone contact.
“My flat was in the top floor, so I was quite worried. There are two or three roofs blown away, and all the satellite dishes destroyed, but apart from that, the building is intact. Water was pouring into the house and my family had to move things into the rooms where it was dry.
“Electricity was cut off but, thanks to one of our neighbors who has an electric generator, we could pump water to our room. For those without any generator, water is a big problem. There is still no relief effort from the government agencies, and people are cleaning the roads by themselves.
“Prices of food had risen and the price of building materials has doubled. A few shops opened and many shoppers are trying to buy things. Some super markets opened today, and they have to limit the number of shoppers into the supermarket.
“My friend said it would be very difficult to restore the city into its previous condition, especially electricity and telecommunication as it will cost millions of dollars to repair the entire infrastructure.”
Fear from Freedom issues an appeal to the ruling Junta:
“Many now live in monasteries in cities in delta area since their villages are gone and their paddy fields are flooded. Who can help who when every family is struggling for survival. While the people in the city struggle with what they have to repair the roofs of their houses and store some water and rice for the expected shortage, the homeless villagers will become beggars till they can go back to their lands and rebuild their villages.
“The military has their soldiers to help the cities but they will not have cash nor goods and tools to help rebuild the victims. I hope they allow the international organization to help these people. They do not have any resources and expertise for this kind of disaster.”
The cyclone also destroyed a prison camp where many political prisoners are held. Assistance Association for Political Prisoners drafts this statement narrating how more than 30 prisoners were killed during a riot last weekend:
“The storm also hit Insein prison in Rangoon. As a result of strong winds, many zinc roofs atop of Insein prison were torn off, one after another.
“Due to the destruction in one area of the prison, over 1,500 prisoners were forced to congregate inside prison hall no. 1. No one was allowed to seek safety, and they were locked inside the hall until the next morning May 3, 2008. Prisoners were wet, cold and hungry as well as angry. Even though prisoners requested prison guards open the doors and move them to safety, the authorities ignored their request. Some prisoners started shouting demands, and some set fire to the prison hall. The fire burnt down the hall, and a riot situation ensued in the prison.
“In order to control the situation, prison guards opened fire on the prisoners. In addition, soldiers and riot police were called in. They opened fire on prisoners in the area. 36 prisoners were killed instantly and around 70 were injured.
“The authorities are to blame for this situation. As soon as the storm hit, they should have moved the prisoners to safety. Their mismanagement of the situation led to prisoners rioting. We condemn their violent response, which led to the needless deaths of 36 prisoners.”
KyiMayKaung uploads a letter from Sophie Lwin of the Burma Global Action Network:
“On Wednesday night NASA predicted that Typhoon Nargis would hit Burma, yet the regime did nothing…It is criminal that the regime didn’t warn the people that the typhoon was coming.”
Agam’s Gecko also condemns the military:
“The massive scale of the disaster has finally prompted the military regime to accept outside assistance, an about-face that alone demonstrates how dire the situation is. Very few soldiers have been spotted lately doing any of the recovery work, although state television did show a couple of uniforms pulling branches around. Monks and other citizens have organized themselves, and seem to be doing most of it.”
The Acorn on the difficulties of delivering aid to Myanmar:
“The tricky business of delivering aid to victims of a natural disaster who are also victims of a repressive regime. A closed regime. Media controls. A category 4 cyclone. Damaged infrastructure. Broken communication links. Death toll first in the hundreds, rapidly upped to the tens of thousands.
“It’s highly likely that the Burmese junta can’t cope with the disaster. Worse, its isolation is making a bad situation much worse. The international response is hobbled by the lack of communication channels, common frameworks and operating procedures.”
nofearSIngapore asserts it’s time for action, not politics:
“Fellow human beings are suffering in a fellow ASEAN country. Another father, brother, sister or child is now waiting for desperate aid from us. This is not the time for politics-it is the time for action.”
jg69 echoes the sentiments of many bloggers around the world:
“Not only do the people in Burma have to put up with a military dictatorship, they also have to contend with natural disasters like cyclone Nargis.
“To the Burmese people, even though it might seem a small and empty gesture, nevertheless, please accept my truly heartfelt condolences to what you have been going through for decades and what you’re going through now.”
Related article: Myanmar: The Perfect Storm
A version of this article was originally posted on Global Voices.