Pattaya Daily News

12 May 2008 :: 15:05:30 pm 29694

Burma Set To Become Humanitarian Catastrophe Of Epic Proportions

With the situation in Burma worsening daily, British Foreign Minister, David Milliband, declared today, May 12, 2008, on BBC TV, that there was an imminent danger of the scenario becoming a "humanitarian catastrophe of epic proportions". The Burmese Junta continues to hinder foreign relief efforts as corpses of people and animals rot in the fields of the Irrawaddy Delta and the spectre of cholera, typhoid and other diseases and starvation looms in a country the US described as an "outpost of tyranny."
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Current estimates put the death toll at 150, 000 with up to 2 million inhabitants at risk, 220,000 reported missing and the prospect of further heavy rains later this week.

Here is the latest news from Reuters:

YANGON (Reuters) – The United States was set to fly relief supplies on Monday to Myanmar, as aid continues to dribble into the reclusive state nine days after a devastating cyclone.

A U.S. Air Force C-130 military transport plane was scheduled to take off from an air base on the Thai-Myanmar border carrying water purification systems and supplies to ward off water-borne diseases, U.S. officials said.

Agencies report that aid deliveries to more than a million increasingly desperate cyclone victims has been minimal.

Medecins Sans Frontieres said on Sunday three cargo planes from Europe carrying medical material and other supplies was scheduled to arrive in Myanmar on Monday.

“More than one week after the disaster, despite the sending of three cargo planes and some positive signals, it has been very difficult to provide highly needed supplies for the heavily affected population in Myanmar,” MSF said in a statement.

“In the areas where we have been, we haven’t seen any aid being delivered so far, so the amount that has reached people in the areas where we are had been minimal,” MSF said

MSF had a large presence in Myanmar before the cyclone. Aid agencies that did not, are having even greater difficulties.

220,000 REPORTED MISSING

While Myanmar’s reclusive military government is accepting aid from the outside world, including the United Nations, it will not let in foreign logistics teams, who were queuing up in Bangkok hoping to get visas from the Myanmar embassy.

The U.N. humanitarian agency said in a new assessment on Sunday that between 1.2 million and 1.9 million were struggling to survive in the aftermath of the storm that struck eight days ago.

“Given the gravity of the situation including the lack of food and water, some partners have reported fears for security, and violent behavior in the most severely afflicted areas,” the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.

It said “the number of deaths could range from 63,290 to 101,682, and 220,000 people are reported to be missing”. It said “acute environmental issues” posed a threat to life and health.

“Unless there is a massive and fast infusion of aid, experts and supplies into the hardest-hit areas, there’s going to be a tragedy on an unimaginable scale,” said Greg Beck of the International Rescue Committee.

In the delta town of Labutta, where 80 percent of homes were destroyed, authorities were providing one cup of rice per family per day, a European Commission aid official told Reuters.

In a blow to the stumbling relief effort a boat carrying some of the first aid to survivors sank, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said.

The boat was believed to have hit a submerged tree in the Irrawaddy delta. The accident highlighted the enormous logistical difficulties of delivering aid, with roads washed away and much of the delta turned to swamp.

Myanmar raised the death toll on Sunday to 28,458 dead and 33,416 missing from the storm on the night of May 2 and early on May 3. Most of the victims were killed by the 12-foot (3.5 meter) wall of sea-water that hit the delta along with the Category 4 cyclone’s 190 kph (120 mph) winds.

U.N. LEADS AID EFFORT

Australia responded to a U.N. appeal for $187 million in aid by dramatically increasing its contribution to $23.4 million.

The U.N. World Food Programme said on Sunday it has begun moving aid to its field headquarters in Labutta using trucks provided by its partners in Myanmar, including the Myanmar Red Cross.

“I think you can say it continues to trickle in,” WFP spokesman Marcus Prior said on Monday.

 The more than one million worst affected lack food, water, and sanitation, face outbreaks of disease such as cholera, and on top of all that heavy rains are predicted this week over the delta.

“It’s a perfect storm, if you will, of factors … that could all combine to endanger the lives of up to 1.5 million people,” international agency Oxfam’s South Asia manager Sarah Ireland told Australian radio on Monday.

Four U.S. Navy ships are steaming toward Myanmar, a country Secretary of State described as an “outpost of tyranny” in 2005, to stand by for possible humanitarian assistance.

A French warship was expected in Myanmar’s waters later this week carrying 1,500 tonnes of rice that France said it wants to distribute directly to survivors.

Despite the alarm bells from the international community about the feeble cyclone relief effort, the junta kept its focus on a weekend referendum on a new constitution, part of a “roadmap to democracy” culminating in multi-party elections in 2010.

There is little doubt about the final result on an army-drafted constitution after an intensive propaganda campaign by the junta urging people to vote “Yes”.

Reporter : PDN staff   Photo : Internet   Category : World News

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