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Disaster strucks BURMA AND CHINA

May 15, 2008




 Good MorningCrying,



Two disasters, contrasting reactions



Two powerful natural disasters, wreaking havoc through large swathes of territory.



Two Asian countries reeling from the horror of tens of thousands of people probably dead and hundreds of thousands more made destitute and homeless.

And two governments, one a military junta and the other a Communist oligarchy, both traditionally suspicious of outside intervention. Journalists, usually welcomed in such circumstances so the world knows what is happening, have had to slip in incognito.

Immediate offers of airlifts and naval support from as far afield as the United States were greeted with hesitation. And even when shipments were grudgingly accepted, government spokesmen tried to insist that while aid was welcome, foreign aid workers were not and the Burmese army could manage without them.


Burmese soldiers next to emergency shelters in Dedaya - 13/5/2008


The Burmese army was notably absent in the days following the cyclone .Yet the immensity of the tragedy seems to be far beyond the means of the Burmese themselves. In some places lucky survivors appeared to have been the recipients of government dispersed tents.

But elsewhere snatched glimpses of bloated bodies left floating in flooded paddy fields, and pictures of soldiers at Rangoon airport unloading aid sacks by hand sent an eloquent signal that this inward-looking regime was ill-equipped to cope with the scale and urgency of such a monumental disaster.

People, it seems, are not the first priority. A referendum to adapt the country’s constitution went ahead as planned on Saturday, except in the inundated areas of the Irrawaddy Delta. Maintaining a firm political grip on the country, it seems, is more important to the Burmese generals than meeting the desperate needs of some of their own citizens.

The military regime allowed in only a small percentage of the relief experts who were needed to assess the devastation and set up supply routes to reach survivors. Aid has been slow to reach Burmese due to restrictions on foreign help . You do not have to travel too far out of Rangoon to smell the stench of death.

Rotting animals lie bloated in the paddy fields, but there are human corpses here too, lying under the wreckage of trees and buildings flattened by last Saturday’s storm. In those areas closest to the capital there are also signs that a little aid is getting through: a few Burmese army vehicles could be seen distributing food on Friday. Locals said the military had arrived a day earlier to help clear the bodies away.

You do not have to travel too far out of Rangoon to smell the stench of death. Rotting animals lie bloated in the paddy fields, but there are human corpses here too, lying under the wreckage of trees and buildings flattened by last Saturday’s storm. In those areas closest to the capital there are also signs that a little aid is getting through: a few Burmese army vehicles could be seen distributing food on Friday.


Burma cyclone in video

UK aid agencies have launched an urgent joint appeal to raise funds for the victims of Burma’s cyclone, which hit on 3 May.

The death toll is now believed to be more than 34,000, with tens of thousands of people missing. Many more have no clean water or shelter.

A selection of video from Burma is below.



                     CYCLONE NARGIS HITS BURMA                                   







   Burma Cyclone by BBC & SKY NEWS







More video links

A survivor waits for aid      

                       (PRESS CTRL PLUS CLICK)


Swift action by China




Compare that to the response of the Communist government in China to this week’s catastrophic earthquake, where the government has sent the message it is prepared to be swift, flexible and surprisingly open.

Within hours the prime minister was on a plane to the region, and Chinese state television, not known for its quick response to emergencies, was rolling with a special disaster programme.


China's Prime Minister Wen Jiabao (left, with megaphone) at a collapsed hospital in Dujiangyan - 12/5/2008


China’s premier (left) flew to the scene within hours of the earthquake .Pictures of collapsed buildings and trapped survivors have sped around the world. Some foreign journalists have been able to get to the region to send eyewitness reports.

In contrast to Burma’s inflexibility over its referendum plans, in China a swift decision was taken to scale down ceremonies surrounding the once controversial Olympic torch relay and add a daily minute of silence, out of respect for the victims. As for offers of outside help, there has been an official welcome for the pledges of relief that have been pouring in.

And even if, like Burma, the Chinese government has stopped short of accepting disaster relief workers, it has moved fast to announce it is mobilising its own considerable resources into what appears to be an impressive rescue mission.

Tens of thousands of Chinese police and soldiers have been making their way to the disaster zone by truck, plane, parachute and some even on foot. How effective they will be in managing this disaster will no doubt emerge in the next few days and weeks.

Whether outsiders – journalists and aid workers – will continue to be allowed near the disaster area remains a question.

Already the Chinese foreign ministry is warning that foreign journalists may be kept away from the earthquake zone "for their own safety". But at the very least, the Chinese government clearly wants to demonstrate to its own people – and to the outside world – that it can cope, and that it cares for its citizens’ welfare.


Different pattern


To be fair, though the scale of the two disasters is perhaps comparable, the logistical problems thrown up by a cyclone and a tidal surge versus the upheaval caused by a major earthquake in heavily populated areas are difficult to equate.

And even if one could, the sheer size and wealth of China, and the resilience of its infrastructure in comparison to Burma meant it was always going to be in a better position to shoulder the burden locally.

But what is particularly striking is how different this week’s reaction in China is from its own inadequate response to disasters in the past, and from the other ways in which it tries to hide sensitive political information.


Chinese soldiers help a civilian up a collapsed road in Beichuan county, Sichuan province - 13/5/2008


The Chinese army was quickly mobilised to help earthquake victims

Its slow and secretive handling of the outbreak of Sars (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) in 2003 led to accusations of a cover up, even though it claimed it was trying to avoid a mass panic about a medical outbreak.

In 2005 when an explosion at a petrochemical factory contaminated a river supplying the northern city of Harbin, the Chinese authorities were severely criticised for failing to own up to the disaster quickly enough.

Yet now it seems that a different pattern is emerging.Earlier this year when millions of Chinese were stranded by ice and heavy snow in the worst winter storms in decades, the authorities again moved swiftly to try to get on top of the emergency. Hundreds of thousands of troops were deployed and easing the crisis was declared a number one priority.

Whether because the eyes of the world are upon it in this Olympic year, or because the Chinese themselves, particularly the increasingly affluent and empowered urban middle class, demand more of their own government, these days in China – unlike in Burma – there seems to be a greater sense of the need to be accountable.


China earthquake in video

China’s government fears more than 50,000 people may have died in the Sichuan earthquake, state media say. Footage of the earthquake, the aftermath and the rescue effort has been coming in to the BBC. A selection of video is available below.




The most powerful earthquake in 30 years










More Video links

      The moment the earthquake struck    

                            (press ctrl plus click)



In pictures: Journey towards the epicentre

To Dujiangyan

After the earthquake struck Sichuan province, Bill Stranberg, a student in Chengdu, headed for the town of Dujiangyan and the surrounding mountains.

These are his pictures and comments describing his journey towards the epicentre of the earthquake.

"A lot of people fearing for their families were on the bus to Dujiangyan from Chengdu. We got there after dark and the only thing lighting up the city were the lights of the cars driving by and the flashes of cameras."

Click below for more images

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      1                  2                    3                  4                       5                             6





In pictures: Quake recovery


Injured earthquake victims receive treatment from medical personnel at a makeshift hospital in Dujiangyan on Thursday

Three days after a massive earthquake hit Sichuan province in China’s south-west, the recovery operation continues.

A man is pulled alive from the rubble in Hanwang Town, Mianzhu City, after 44 hours underground - in a photo from Wednesday just released by Xinhua

Soldiers and rescue workers are trying to pluck dwindling numbers of survivors from the rubble. More than 20,000 people are missing, feared buried.

A picture of a missing couple is posted on a notice board bearing the names of earthquake survivors at a hospital in Deyang, Sichuan province, on Thursday

This list of names of survivors at a hospital in Deyang will bring relief to some. But hopes fade for many who remain missing – such as this couple, whose picture is pinned to the notice board.

An aerial view of the badly stricken town of Yingxiu in Wenchuan county, released by Xinhua

The scale of the damage – shown in this view of Yingxiu, Wenchuan county – presents a huge challenge even for China’s mighty army, and people have been asked to donate basic equipment.

People line up to donate blood to Sichuan earthquake victims at a blood donation unit in Shanghai on Thursday

The public response has been impressive. Queues of blood donors formed in Chinese cities, and a fundraising drive has reportedly collected 877m yuan ($125m) so far.

Charity workers raise funds towards the quake relief operation in Taipei, Taiwan, on Thursday

Strains in ties with China’s neighbours have been put aside – at least temporarily – with Taiwan and Japan contributing money, equipment and expertise.

Parents grieve after identifying their child at a destroyed school in Dujiangyan on Thursday

But the response makes little difference for some – such as these parents, who have just identified the body of their child at the ruins of a school in Dujiangyan.

Zhang Jiachi, who lost both his arms after his school collapsed in Shifang in Monday's quake, looks on while his mother cries at a hospital in Deyang on Thursday

While for others – such as this young boy, Zhang Jiachi, who lost both arms when his school collapsed in Shifang – the life ahead now looks very different.

Chinese quake survivors attempt to salvage belongings inside their destroyed home on Thursday in Dujiangyan

Many who had little to begin with, now have nothing.

A relative of earthquake victims lights incense and candles as a last tribute to the dead near the rubble of a collapsed building in Dujiangyan

Amid the frenetic activity, there is time to mourn as the bodies continue to come.




NATURAL DISASTERS (What causes them)  

Animated guides to the world’s most devastating phenomena.


Graphic of hurricane forming Hurricanes (PRESS CTRL PLUS CLICK)
The destructive power of hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones
Tornado Tornadoes (PRESS CTRL PLUS CLICK)
How tornadoes form and the damage they can cause

Earthquake animated guide Earthquakes (PRESS CTRL PLUS CLICK)
How and why the earth moves, and different types of quake

guide to volcanoes Volcanoes (PRESS CTRL PLUS CLICK)
How they are formed and what happens during an eruption

Tsunami graphic Tsunami (PRESS CTRL PLUS CLICK)
How earthquakes at sea can trigger devastating waves







     Snapshot of me 6 Anurag Dubey









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