Cyclone devastates Yangon after killing over 350 in Myanmar (Lead)

May 5th, 2008 - 12:11 pm ICT by admin  

Yangon, May 5 (DPA) Much of Yangon was still suffering water shortages and lack of electricity Monday, two days after a cyclone hit Myanmar’s coastal regions leaving at least 351 dead and thousands homeless. According to state-controlled media reports, cyclone Nargis, which blew off the Bay of Bengal late Friday night packing winds of up to 190 kmph, killed 19 people, including 11 women, in Yangon; 109 on the island of Hai Gyi and 223 in the coastal Irrawaddy Division.

Myanmar’s third most populous city of Pathein, the capital of the Irrawaddy, was reportedly inundated by floodwaters causing untold damage and deaths.

The fertile, low-lying Irrawaddy Division is also Myanmar’s chief rice growing area. Damage to the Irrawady’s irrigation systems and crops was still unreported by state television, which is tightly monitored in this military-run country.

In Yangon, the cyclone uprooted and knocked down trees that blocked main roads in the former capital over the weekend, smashed water pipes and toppled electricity and telephone poles, leaving residents without basic public utilities.

“People, young and old, are carrying water,” said Aye Sint, a Yangon resident. “There has been no water or electricity since Saturday.”

Myanmar Prime Minister Thein Sein appeared in Yangon Sunday to pass out food and supplies to victims of the cyclone, but much of the cleanup work has been done by the people themselves.

“The military cleared the trees from the main roads but we had to do it ourselves here,” said a resident of Yankin township, a Yangon suburb.

It remains to be seen whether the government will launch an appeal for international humanitarian aid.

“International expertise in dealing with natural disasters is urgently required. The military regime is ill-prepared to deal with the aftermath of the cyclone,” said Naing Aung, secretary general of the Thailand-based Forum for Democracy in Burma (FDB).

“For their part, the regime must allow NGOs and aid agencies immediate and unrestricted access to the affected areas,” said Naing Aung.

“Aid agencies and NGOs must be allowed to operate freely to provide humanitarian assistance directly to the people of Burma.”

FDB is one of many Myanmar political organisations struggling to bring democracy to the country, which has been under military rule since 1962.

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