Cyclone Nargis

Tropical cyclone Nargis hit much of Burma on Saturday, at first it sounded as if only Yangon (Rangoon) was badly affected, and the death toll was estimated at 10,000. As time passed it became clear that the cyclone had pushed much further east. Quickly even the Myanmar military government declared the Irrawaddy delta, the Pegu Division and Mon and Karen States disaster zones.

As the biggest city, and the easiest place to get information, most of the coverage has focused on the effects of the storm in the city. The military government is being slow to permit International aid agencies into the country to assess the needs and provide assistance. Meanwhile the official death figures continue to rise, and patchy reports from more distant areas suggest it will be considerably higher than the 22,500 announced yesterday by the government.

I have not so far managed to find any news that directly indicates the impact of the cyclone on the Karen people, though the fact that Karen State was listed by the government as one of the disaster areas does not bode well. It is urgent that aid reach affected areas quickly. However, the situation is complicated by the government’s determination to go ahead with the controversial referendum on Saturday on a new constitution drafted by the military dictators. The 47 areas worst hit by the storms will be exempted from Saturday’s vote, and will vote on 24 May.

As mismanagement and corruption in the administration continue to impact relief efforts there is also a danger that the Junta’s fear of impartial observers may cause further delay in granting visas. The Irrawaddy News reports Aung Naing Oo, a Burmese political analyst, as saying that: “The ruling generals don’t want to see many international
agencies, aid workers or rescue teams near the referendum or during the

This is a situation where your prayers are needed!


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