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Disaster Contrasts: Burma Hampers Aid, China Goes All Out

May 13, 2008

Burma continues to reject help

Burma’s military government has said it is still opposed to letting foreign aid workers in to help the many victims of Cyclone Nargis.

Vice-Admiral Soe Thein, of the military leadership, said Burma was grateful for the aid shipment from the United States which arrived on Monday.

But he said that so far there was no need for aid workers.

The US has said it hopes to send in two more transport aircraft carrying aid later on Tuesday.

… aid workers complain that much of the aid delivered over the past week has not reached those who need it, because the Burmese military insists on controlling most of the distribution – despite lacking the equipment and expertise to do it well.

… delivering supplies in the Irrawaddy Delta with dugout canoes, and say they are badly overstretched.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed his “immense frustration” “We are at a critical point. Unless more aid gets into the country very quickly, we face an outbreak of infectious diseases that could dwarf today’s current crisis.”

With little access to food or clean drinking water, they face cholera, fever and other illnesses.

Mr Ban said the UN had been able to reach some 270,000 people, providing only “the most rudimentary assistance”.

He said food aid provided so far might amount to less than a 10th of what was needed, and that rice stocks were “close to exhaustion”.

U-TAPAO, Thailand (CNN) The United States has sent more aid to cyclone-devastated Myanmar amid allegations that the ruling military junta is keeping the best foreign supplies for itself and doling out rotting food.

Rain lashes Myanmar cyclone survivors

YANGON (Reuters) – Heavy rains pelted homeless cyclone survivors in Myanmar’s Irrawaddy delta on Tuesday, complicating already slow delivery of aid to more than 1.5 million people facing hunger and disease. “The response of the regime in Burma to this crisis has been absolutely callous and those paying the price of this callousness have been the long-suffering Burmese people,” Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told parliament.

Journalists in Myanmar ‘live in fear’

  • Phones are tapped and the few foreign journalists in Myanmar operate in secret
  • Reclusive military regime does not want details of the suffering to leak out
  • Junta wants to conceal the extent of the cyclone damage, says one journalist
  • Aid agencies there now becoming uncomfortable talking to reporters in public

AT THE OTHER NATURAL DISASTER

China’s Hu says quake relief government’s top priority

A massive search and rescue operation is under way in south-western China after one of the most powerful earthquakes in decades.

Troops have arrived in Wenchuan county at the epicentre, which was largely cut off by the quake – but heavy rain is hampering rescue operations.

Elsewhere in Sichuan province, frantic efforts are being made to reach thousands of people under the rubble.

Boulders and landslides are blocking roads in the worst-hit areas and helicopters have been unable to land because of the bad weather.

Beijing has deployed 50,000 troops to help with relief efforts, but they have not yet all arrived.

The 1,300 rescue troops and medics who reached Wenchuan county immediately started searching for survivors and treating the injured, Xinhua reported.

Premier Wen pledges to save more lives

The meeting demanded sufficient supply of food, medicine, clothes and tents to the quake-hit areas and that telecommunication, power and water supplies and transportation access must be restored as soon as possible.

Local governments should keep a close watch on the latest development of the earthquake and its aftershocks, and guard against earthquake-induced disasters causing new casualties.

Those who spread rumors to sabotage disaster relief work would be dealt with according to China’s laws and regulations.

The contrasts are evident, no word on international aid response to China. But, given China’s superior capabilities, China may not need the same help that Burma does. Natural disasters in affluent countries is no less traumatic, but the response is much more effective. China’s paranoia aside, it appears to be making an heroic effort, Chinese people have a more humanitarian heart, when it comes to their own. No comment about Tibet …

Burma is a catastrophe sandwiched between tyranny and greed. Paranoia takes a more sinister turn when international aid is hijacked by the government. Casualty numbers for both disasters are daunting. Success of relief efforts will determine the size of the health crisis to follow. China’s paranoia will address health issues immediately, its world image is at stake. Burma’s paranoia allows it to ignore the plight of its own people to protect their dismal few tyrants.

The world is watching another life lesson unfold before their eyes. Governments not prepared for the consequences contribute to the destruction of the human race. The world must shake massive denial the earth is changing and take note of all the symptoms. Without coordinated, responsible behavior, the results of earth’s warnings will throw humanity back into the stone age … Every year earth’s alarm clock rings and rings … as advanced and sophisticated as human beings have become, self-importance has made us all deaf. Governments doze and dream of money and power. First world humans are so disconnected from the earth realities, they will be the first to go …

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