Thursday, May 22, 2008

Cyclone Nargis has never been ‘natural’

An opinion piece in the Irrawaddy News by Sai Soe Winn Latt: Prime Minister Gordon Brown told the BBC last week that Cyclone Nargis had been turned into a "man-made catastrophe" from a natural disaster because of the negligence of the ruling generals. While Mr. Brown is right that Cyclone Nargis has been turned into a “man-made catastrophe,” it may also be the result of man-made economic, political and historical factors.

…Cyclone Nargis is a political problem because of the isolationist, xenophobic views of Burma’s military government. The junta misinformed the people about the cyclone, and also failed to take appropriate action before and after the storm. According to M. Maharatra, the director of the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), regular advisories were issued, starting on April 26, to the Burmese authorities that a strong cyclone would strike Burma.

…. Burma’s military governments have never had a disaster relief plan for just such an event as Cyclone Nargis. The area is home to hundreds of rivers and tributaries and only about 3 meters above sea level. The 2004 tsunami should have been taken as a warning.

When the winds and tides of the cyclone were over, the politics of aid began to unfold. Regardless of the dead and homeless, the junta refused to allow international communities to help the victims.…Shamelessly, the junta seized the World Food Programme’s aid supplies and deported some aid workers….

China, India and the Asian countries have also contributed to the present problem by their hands-off policies which have in effect reinforced the regime’s hubris, leading up to the current international stand off…..

Cyclone Nargis makes landfall, NASA, Wikimedia Commons

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