Friday, May 09, 2008

Burma Aftermath

See Orangwutang for some interesting first hand pictures and text of the Burma cyclone (nee hurricane) disaster over the past few days.

Currently, I am watching US coverage of the Burma events and cannot help but be incredulous at the projected death numbers - as of today, the Western press is saying that 100,000 people may have died in the storm.  That just sounds sensationalistic and totally wrong.  

It's a storm, a huge storm mind you, but a storm.  It's not a tsunami with its instant flooding nor the Katrina-style broken levees phenomena.

I am sure the winds and the rains caused deathly flying debris, and collapsed housing that befelled victims, but not 100,000 of them.  And many, many will die from the food and sanitation conditions in the aftermath, but again, not totaling 100,000 people.

Every death is tragic, but overstating claims is a disservice to the people in harm's way.  It makes people scoff at the entire situation and tune it all out, all because the press, international aid agencies, the UN, et al., need big numbers to sell their agendas.  

Look at Katrina, where the death toll is approximately 1,800 people.  Initially it was projected to be 10,000.          

Burma is run by a military junta, which is not currently loved by the international community.  Its government is reportedly slow to accept aid workers and reluctant to allow US military planes to land within its borders.  Now why would a government not invite the US military in?

Incredibly, I saw a CNN reporter ask Ban Ki-Moon, the UN head, whether the UN would unilaterally fly in relief supplies, make aid drops, etc., if it does not receive approval from Burma to conduct such activities within Burma's borders.  I didn't catch the response, but the question was galling - apparently, respecting another country's sovereignty is not a concept that CNN is familiar with.  Overhyping death figures just allows them to slough off such concerns.    

1 comment:

layered said...

The killer in Indian Ocean cyclones is not the flying debris and collapsing houses, but the storm surge. The storm surge is a wall of sea water driven inland by the wind. The wall of water for this cyclone in Burma has been recorded at 12 feet. (The storm surge for Hurricane Katrina was recorded at 28 feet.)

Similar recent cyclones in the region had death tolls recorded over 100,000 -- the 1970 Bhola cyclone in what is now Bangladesh killed a reported 300 to 500,000 people, and the 1991 Bangladesh cyclone killed 138,000 people.

But I think we can say at this point that the death toll for this cyclone will be much higher than it would have been if the military rulers of Burma were more open to immediate aid and assistance.
-- Mel