World » Asia
Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey

Humanitarian Disaster in Myanmar

UN officials on Wednesday declared Myanmar's Irrawaddy delta a "major disaster" as corpses were seen floating through flooded waters and enormous logistical problems hampered humanitarian aid efforts. "Basically the entire lower delta region is under water," said Richard Horsey, the Bangkok-based spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid.

State television in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is saying that perhaps as many as 22,500 people lost their lives in the cyclone and 41,000 people are reported missing. Cyclone Nargis packed winds of 120 mph leaving a million people homeless and with limited resources to maintain daily life. Cyclones, also known as hurricanes, are giant swirling areas of low pressure

The devastation is beyond belief. The entire coastline has been redrawn by the storm due to the 12 foot storm surge, the most deadly aspect of these storms.

Rainstorms continued to pound the area, forcing survivors to take cover under tarps in between trying to salvage whatever food there is available. Residents were also seeking shelter among railroad tracks to escape flood waters. Victims have been cut off from the rest of the world as boats and helicopters were the only way to reach the area.

State television on Wednesday quoted Yangon official Gen. Tha Aye as reassuring people that the situation was "returning to normal" in certain areas of Karen state that were hit by the cyclone. He was shown thanking volunteers and visiting the village of Naungbo, outside Yangon, where locals were cutting apart downed trees and brush to clear the roads.

Entire villages have been obliterated. Clean water and supplies from the international community have been pouring in, but the need there is overwhelming because of the massive devastation. Food, tents and drinking water are the primary immediate humanitarian necessities. Aid workers were able to start distributing essential relief supplies in the region, including water purification tablets, mosquito nets, plastic sheeting and basic medical supplies