Tuesday, May 6, 2008

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May 5, 2008 (8:15 p.m. EDT) No. 106
The Honourable Beverley J. Oda, Minister of International Cooperation, and the Honourable Maxime Bernier, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today announced that Canada is setting aside up to $2 million in humanitarian assistance to respond to Tropical Cyclone Nargis.
“I wish to extend my condolences to the families of the deceased and express my concern for those affected by the terrible devastation caused by Tropical Cyclone Nargis. The Government of Canada has set aside up to $2 million to provide urgent relief to the people of Burma,” said Minister Oda. “Canada is working closely with trusted partners such as United Nations humanitarian agencies, the Red Cross Movement and experienced non-governmental organizations to determine how Canada’s support can best meet the humanitarian needs of the people, once access is allowed by the Burmese government.”
“On behalf of Canadians, I would like to extend my sympathies to the many thousands of families in Burma who have lost loved ones and whose lives have been severely affected by this disaster,” said Minister Bernier. “We call upon the Burmese authorities to provide full and unhindered access to humanitarian organizations to allow them to assist with the relief efforts.”
Core funding already provided by Canada to international humanitarian agencies enables these partners to begin assessments and to provide immediate relief in the aftermath of natural disasters.
The funds announced today will be provided as cash contributions to independent, impartial and neutral Canadian International Development Agency partners, who have the operational capacity to meet humanitarian needs.
In December 2007, Canada made the Special Economic Measures (Burma) Regulations. These measures include an export ban and a prohibition on the provision of Canadian financial services to and from Burma. There are exemptions to these sanctions on humanitarian grounds. Canadian officials are actively monitoring the situation. To date, there are no reports of Canadian deaths or injuries as a result of the cyclone. Canadians are advised against non-essential travel to Burma due to extensive damage caused. Canadians in the region can contact Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada in Ottawa at sos@international.gc.ca or make a collect call to 613-996-8885.


Burma's cyclone death toll soars
The death toll from Burma's devastating cyclone has now risen to more than 22,000, state media have said.

Referendum postponed in some areas
May 6, 2008 (DVB)-The Burmese military regime has postponed the referendum on the new constitution in some townships hid hard by cyclone Nargis this weekend, contrary to an earlier statement that the vote would go ahead as planned.
The national referendum on the junta�s draft constitution was due to be held throughout the country on 10 May, but voting in seven townships in Irrawaddy division and 40 townships in Rangoon division has now been postponed until 24 May.
Pro-democracy activists were outraged by the decision to go ahead with the referendum, and called on the government to prioritise disaster relief instead of pushing ahead with a draft constitution felt by many to be merely a way of further entrenching military rule.
Article 20 of the February 2008 Referendum Law allows township sub-commissions to postpone voting in some or all polling booths in the event of a natural disaster.
Tropical cyclone Nargis swept through Burma over the weekend, causing large-scale devastation which has killed thousands and left many more homeless and suffering shortages of food, water and electricity.
The latest government figures say that more than 15,000 people were killed in the cyclone, with many thousands more missing.

10,000 reported dead in Bogalay township
May 6, 2008 (DVB)-As the scale of the devastation caused by Cyclone Nargis in Burma becomes clearer, government figures say that 10,000 people were killed in Bogalay township alone.
The Burmese military regime has estimated the overall death toll to be more than 15,000, though this figure is being constantly revised as new information becomes available.

U Myint Aye of the Human Rights Defenders and Promoters network said his sources in Bogalay had confirmed the extent of the devastation in the Irrawaddy town.

He told DVB the cyclone had begun to hit the town at around 5.30pm on 2 May, and was at its strongest between 8.30pm until 4am on 3 May.

�Houses in wards 2, 4, 6, 7, 8 and 9 of the Bogalay town were completely destroyed by the wind,� Myint Aye said.

�Strong buildings in ward 1, 3 and 5 had their roofs ripped off by the cyclone while the small houses collapsed.�

Myint Aye said all the villages around Bogalay were now under water, leaving many people stranded.

"On 4 April, I was informed by a resident of Mondine Gyi village, located south of Bogalay town, that all the houses there were under water and people were forced to stay on top of their roofs,� he said.

�He said some people even died after falling of their roofs due to the strong tide."

Myint Aye also criticised the lack of government response to the crisis.

"Authorities have so far provided no assistance to the villagers and they have no food, no shelter and no clean water,� he said.

�Monasteries have also had their roofs blown off and so have been unable to provide shelter to the victims."

Reporting by Naw Say Phaw

Lack of access hampers cyclone relief efforts
May 6, 2008 (DVB)-Some assistance has been getting through to victims of the recent cyclone in Burma, but delivering aid to more remote areas, a United Nations official said today.

Richard Horsey, spokesperson for the UN�s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said the major challenge now was distributing aid within the country.

�There are some cargo flights that have already arrived today, particularly from the Thai Red Cross, and in terms of the UN and other agencies, the flights are under preparation to get necessary emergency supplies to Yangon,� he said.

�But the main problem now is not getting the things to Yangon, but getting them from Yangon out into the affected areas.�

Horsey said that current priorities were plastic sheeting and roofing materials for shelter and water purification tablets to ensure people have clean water.

Some supplies, including water purification tablets and plastic sheeting, had been routinely stockpiled by the UN in the country but now need to be distributed to victims of the natural disaster.

Assessment teams are currently working their way through the Irrawaddy Delta region and beginning to establish logistical networks to allow vehicle access to remote areas and assess where help is most needed.

Horsey said the UN was not collecting its own figures on casualties, but noted the government�s estimate of more than 15,000 killed and said this number could continue to rise as some of the worst-affected areas are only just beginning to be reached.

He said the Burmese government had taken some steps to assist international relief efforts.

�I think it�s clear that the government recognises that this is an unprecedented disaster for Myanmar - nothing like this has happened in recent times - and that it calls for an unprecedented response,� he said.

�They are making available helicopters and boats to the relief effort to make sure that some supplies are getting to the areas that are cut off, but clearly much more needs to be done in terms of getting assistance out.�

Cyclone survivor describes situation in Dadaye
May 6, 2008 (DVB)-In the aftermath of the devastating cyclone that swept Burma over the weekend, DVB spoke to a survivor from Dadaye township, Irrawaddy division, one of the worst-affected areas.
The Dadaye resident spoke about his own experiences and what he had seen as he fled to safety.
�The tides came along with the storm. So people left their homes and tried to sleep on the roads. I think there were maybe more than 1000 people sleeping in the streets.�

DVB: Are there any homes left?

�There are no homes left. People are now searching for the bodies of their family members. Many families lost three, five or more loved ones. We were lucky and we survived. We left all our belongings and brought nothing with use when we escaped. We escaped during the night.�

DVB: Is the tide coming in?

�Yes, the tide is coming in. Trees have fallen on top of people, there are many dead bodies lying under trees. Many people have lost their homes.�

DVB: How many people were killed?

�I saw lots of dead bodies on my way, and large herds of animals have been killed everywhere. Children were seen hanging by their hands as they died.�

DVB: Were many children killed?

�Not just children, also adults, elderly people � everyone.�

DVB: Did all the villagers die?

�There are only six left alive in the entire village.�

DVB: Is that Danyingon village, near Dadaye?

�Yes, all the people I saw were in floods of tears and were searching for the bodies of their loved ones. There was a bad smell from the dead bodies along the way we came.�

DVB: Have the dead bodies not yet been removed?

�There are bodies in areas which have not yet been searched. We found about 40 dead bodies on our way. Herds of cows and buffalo were also among the victims.�

DVB: Were there dead bodies floating in the water?

�Everywhere - in the bushes, in the streams, everywhere.�

DVB: Floating bodies could be brought back when tide comes in again.

�This tragedy was caused by a combination of the tides and the storm. There was too much water coming in.�