BANGKOK, 23 September 2010 (IRIN) – Asia, the continent most at risk for natural disasters, is also the most vulnerable to cyclones, experts say.
Each year an average of 119 million people globally are exposed to the threat of tropical cyclones, with more than 85 percent of the expected annual deaths in Bangladesh and India alone, and each of the top five most exposed populations – China, India, Japan, Philippines, Bangladesh – also in Asia.
“The impact of cyclones is much higher in Asia, compared to the US which is also hit frequently, because of the economic conditions and gaps in early-warning mechanisms,” Senaka Basnayake, urban climate risks management specialist at the Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre, told IRIN in Bangkok.
These extreme weather systems, called cyclones in the Indian Ocean and southwestern Pacific Ocean, and typhoons in the northwestern Pacific Ocean, typically appear from May to November and are accompanied by torrential rains and wind speeds exceeding 119km per hour.
According to the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR), it is the combination of highly populated coastal areas and deltas and low human development rankings in many Asian countries that makes populations in this region particularly vulnerable.
Worst Asian cyclones:
2 May 2008 – Myanmar – Cyclone Nargis hit the Ayeyarwady Delta, leaving 140,000 dead or missing and destroying infrastructure, property and livelihoods in the Ayeyarwady and Yangon divisions. More than 2.4 million people across the country were affected.
29 April 1991 – Bangladesh – About 143,000 people died when Cyclone 02B hit the southern coast with a 4.6m tidal surge, leaving as many as 10 million homeless.
5 August 1975 – China – Typhoon Nina killed more than 100,000 and destroyed 100km of railways, causing US$1.2 billion in economic damage.
12 November 1970 – East Pakistan/Bangladesh – Termed the “greatest tropical system disaster of the century” by the US National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Cyclone Bhola swept the low-lying areas of the Bengal coast, destroying the city of Chittagong, dozens of villages, and killing upwards of 500,000 people. The government was criticized for its handling of relief operations. Popular dissatisfaction contributed to the outbreak of the civil war in 1971, which led to a war with India and the formation of Bangladesh.
16 October 1942 – India – A cyclone hit the Bay of Bengal near the India-East Pakistan border, killing 40,000.
2 August 1922 – China – Typhoon Swatow, accompanied by a tidal wave, hit Shantou, killing an estimated 50,000 people and devastating a large part of the Han River delta, carrying ships as far as 3.5km north.
August 1912 – China – Typhoon strikes the eastern coast killing 50,000.
15 September 1881 – Vietnam – The city of Haiphong in the Gulf of Tonkin, one of the most frequent paths for Asia’s Pacific typhoons, was devastated, with 300,000 deaths.
5 October 1864 – India – A powerful cyclone hit Calcutta, killing 60,000 and destroying most of the harbour.
25 November 1839 – India – A cyclone with 12m waves hit Coringa, destroying 20,000 ships and killing an estimated 300,000 people.
Sources: WMO, NOAA, EMDAT
UNITED NATIONS, August 23 — In the run up to a November election which will exclude Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy, the military government of Myanmar has moved to curtail the system of entry visas for aid workers instituted after Cyclone Nargis.
While one might expect the UN, whose Secretary General Ban Ki-moon once claimed this post-Nargis access as one of his major accomplishments, to speak out against this re-closing down of Myanmar, that has not been the case.
In recent weeks, Inner City Press has repeatedly asked the UN Spokesman Martin Nesirky and UN officials who appeared only on condition of not being named to list any recent accomplishment on Myanmar of the UN’s Good Offices role. On August 20, Inner City Press specifically asked if the UN or its envoy on Myanmar Vijay Nambiar, Ban’s chief of staff, had any comment on the visa crackdown. Here is the UN’s response in Inner City Press:
Subject: Your question on the TCG
From: UN Spokesperson – Do Not Reply <unspokesperson-donotreply [at] un.org>
To: Matthew Lee [at] innercitypress.com
Date: Fri, Aug 20, 2010 at 3:25 PM
At the 43rd ASEAN annual meeting Hanoi on 19–20 July 2010, the ASEAN Foreign agreed to officially to end the Tripartite Core Group (TCG) and the ASEAN Humanitarian Task Force (AHTF) by 31 July 2010 and to transfer the coordination role to the Government.
In light of the Government’s announcement that Nargis related work will be taken up by the relevant line ministries, the UNCT is engaging closely with the authorities to ensure that needed assistance in not interrupted.
There are today 15 UN agencies, 50 international organizations and a similar number of local NGOs operating inside the country and are working not only in the Ayeyarwaddy delta, but in all regions of Myanmar. Looking forward, the United Nations and the Government of Myanmar have reached agreement for collaborating on a two-year Joint Humanitarian Initiative (2010-2011) for Northern Rakhine State, a border area whose population faces a particularly difficult combination of socio-economic and humanitarian factors.
So will the UN’s current push for Pakistan end with a similar whimper?
Thursday, 07 January 2010 22:24 Mizzima News
Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Vice-Senior General Maung Aye, number two in the Burmese military hierarchy will tour the Nargis-hit Irrawaddy Delta tomorrow, according to military sources.
Maung Aye will visit places including Kyone Dar located in Dedaye township and inspect constructions underway in the Irrawaddy Delta. He will be mainly inspecting the places that were visited by Senior General Than Shwe in November 2009. Than Shwe, during his trip to Irrawaddy Delta, had instructed officers to complete all construction of buildings, schools and government offices in the Nargis-hit delta by 31 March 2010.
General Maung Aye is expected to push for the completion of projects by the deadline.
The constructions are mainly being done by companies that are close to the military regime such as Asia World Company Ltd., Shwe Than Lwin Company Limited, Htoo Trading and T.Z.T.M Construction Company Ltd.
There is criticism regarding the construction of the projects in the Irrawaddy Delta and many point out that more buildings need to be built.
General Maung Aye is presently in Rangoon, the former capital of Burma, attending the funeral of his close friend former Home Minister Vice General Mya Thin, who expired on January 4.
Detained cyclone aid workers released
Dec 4, 2009 (DVB)–Seventeen cyclone relief workers and journalists associated with a Burmese aid organization who were arrested in October have been released from a Rangoon interrogation centre, their families said.
The 17 people were allegedly linked with the Lin Latt Kyae (‘Shining Star’) relief organisation, which has helped victims of cyclone Nargis since it hit Burma in May 2008.
Among the 17 were three journalists; Khant Min Htet, editor of the Alinka Wutyee weekly news journal, Thant Zin Soe, editor of the Foreign Affairs journal, and Paing Soe Oo, editor of the Pyi Myanmar news journal.
The New York-based Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) had “strongly condemned” the arrest of Paing Soe Oo after reports surfaced of the crackdown.
Government officials at the Aung Thabyay interrogation centre in Rangoon released the detainees on Wednesday.
“The parents were asked to sign a guarantee to make sure this won’t happen again,” said Sein Ne, father of Khant Min Htet. “The officials said they were spared from being charged in return for their relief work.” Continue reading “Seventeen cyclone relief workers and journalists associated with a Burmese aid organization who were arrested in October have been released from a Rangoon interrogation centre, their families said.”
Date: 25 Nov 2009
Written by: A Myanmar expert in Bangkok
BANGKOK – For about 100,000 people in Myanmar who have been living in makeshift shelters since Cyclone Nargis hit 18 months ago, Wednesday’s news of fresh donor money spells light at the end of the tunnel.
But for the remaining 900,000 people whose homes were destroyed or damaged, the prospects are dim.
International donors pledged a fresh $88 million for new houses, schools and employment programmes for the cyclone’s survivors. The money will help fund 17,800 new family homes.
Using a U.N. standard of five to six people per family, it works out that the new houses will accommodate around 100,000 people. But about one million need help with shelter, according to the United Nations.
Earlier this year, the United Nations listed responding to the immediate need for sustainable shelter in Myanmar as one of its priorities for 2009-10. Despite that, shelter remains one of the most under-funded needs in the country.
Part of the reason, aid workers say, is the perception among donors that housing is the responsibility of the government and most donors want to avoid being seen as subsidising Myanmar’s military regime.
“If we have resources, I believe we can do much more,” said Bishow Parajuli, U.N. resident and humanitarian coordinator in Myanmar. “The fundamental problem for the recovery support in Myanmar is lack of money – for everything.”
Cyclone Nargis swept through Myanmar’s Irrawaddy delta, once dubbed the country’s rice bowl, in May last year, killing 140,000 people, destroying 450,000 houses and leaving 2.4 million destitute.
For more humanitarian news and analysis, please visit http://www.alertnet.org
Bangkok, 25 November 2009
ASEAN, in partnership with the UN and humanitarian partners, mobilised over US$ 88 million to assist Cyclone Nargis survivors with recovery activities at the Post-Nargis and Regional Partnership Conference in Bangkok today.
The conference – co-chaired by Dr Surin Pitsuwan, Secretary-General of ASEAN and Dr Noeleen Heyzer, Under Secretary General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) – aimed to raise funds to address critical needs for the continuing reconstruction in cyclone affected areas.
“While much has been done, there are many affected communities across the Delta who are still highly vulnerable and require urgent continued humanitarian assistance, especially in the areas of shelter, livelihoods, water, sanitation and hygiene, education and health,” said Dr Surin Pitsuwan in his opening statement. “If support is not forthcoming soon, gains made over the past 18 months will be quickly lost, and the window to provide timely assistance will close.”
Dr Noeleen Heyzer also called for increased funds for recovery activities in her statement.
“Today, we are in danger of falling short of our promise to the people of the Ayeyarwady Delta. International support for the post-Nargis recovery effort has helped open an extraordinary window of opportunity for the international humanitarian community to work with ASEAN and the Government of Myanmar,” Dr Heyzer said. “However, so far only a small portion of the total appeal for humanitarian assistance has been met by the international community. If we are to continue our work for the victims of Cyclone Nargis, additional resources are urgently needed.” Continue reading “ASEAN Mobilises Over US$ 88 Million for Cyclone Nargis Survivors”
ASEAN Secretariat, 28 October 2009
The ASEAN Foreign Ministers called for more funds and support for Nargis-affected people during the 15th ASEAN Summit in Cha-am Hua Hin, Thailand, 23-25 October 2009. The call was made following the Foreign Ministers’ endorsement of the Tripartite Core Group’s Prioritised Action Plan and the proposal to hold a Post-Nargis Assistance Conference (PONAC) to raise $103 million to address outstanding critical needs in the Nargis-hit areas of Myanmar.
The Prioritised Action Plan undertaken by the humanitarian communities is the result of a prioritization exercise that took place in Yangon and the Delta in August and September 2009. It identifies interventions in Shelter, Livelihoods, Water, Sanitation & Hygiene, Education and Health – and corresponds to an assessment of delivery capacity from numerous agencies engaged in each of the sectors. It aims to provide 17,800 new houses, 16 cyclone shelters, livelihood programs for 1 million people, water and sanitation facilities for 800,000 people, education facilities to 35,000 students and health services to 900,000 individuals.
The PONAC, scheduled for 25 November 2009 in Bangkok, Thailand, aims to take stock of the progress of post-Nargis assistance over the last 18 months and to mobilise funds to address the outstanding humanitarian needs up to July 2010. It also serves as a forum for regional lessons sharing in disaster management in the wake of the multiple-disasters that struck Southeast Asia in September 2009. “People in the cyclone-affected area are awaiting our action to help them help themselves. Continued support from the donor community is urgently needed to revive their lives after one of the biggest disasters in their country’s history engulfed them. I hope that we will not let them down in their hour of need,” said Dr. William Sabandar, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General of ASEAN for post-Nargis Recovery in Myanmar.
The Tripartite Core Group (TCG) was officially established on 31 May 2008. It comprises high-level representatives from the United Nations, Government of the Union of Myanmar and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Mai Phuong Tang
ASEAN Humanitarian Task Force
Coordinating Office in Yangon
Tel: +951 544500 Ext. 428