“Utter war zone,” one Yangon-based diplomat said in an email to Reuters in Bangkok. “Trees across all streets. Utility poles down. Hospitals devastated. Clean water scarce.”
“I have never seen anything like it,” one retired government worker told Reuters. “It reminded me of when Hurricane Katrina hit the United States.”
“It was a direct hit on a major city,” said Terje Skavdal, regional head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA).
These are early reports and the toll is expected to be worse, how the regime reacts to this, if it can react and if it cancels the sham referendum remains to be seen, then will outside help be requested and how does this leave the pro-democracy forces. Also will reconstruction take advantage of this shock and impose further corrupt commercial ventures for the Generals and outside corporations gain or in the guise of being pro-democratic presage a corporate feeding frenzy as found in areas of South East Asia after the tsunami. The people need immediate help and from a junta that views many of them as enemies, the state authorities might use this as a means to further ravage opposition. But there may also be opportunities for the democracy movement who en masse have rejected the sham constitutional referendum. It would be massively helpful if external non-governmental aid can be delivered to them and not state authorities, it would be more effective, more equitably distributed and less likely to reinforce the military hegemony, how possible this is will become apparent in the coming week.
At least 351 people have been killed by cyclone Nargis as it tore through Burma this weekend.
Another 100,000 people were left homeless when the strom tore through the area, razing thousands of buildings and smashing up streets.
Residents awoke this morning to scenes of devastation after the cyclone bore through swathes of southern Burma late on Friday and Saturday, uprooting trees, pummelling buildings and ripping up power lines.
The authorities have declared disaster zones in the five states and the regions of Rangoon, Ayeyawaddy, Bago, Mon and Karen.
The cyclone brought down power and phone lines, cutting off the military-run nation.
The coastal area of Ayeyawaddy appears worst hit by the natural disaster, but Rangoon was also battered.
The information ministry official said seven empty boats had sunk in the country’s main port, while Rangoon’s international airport as closed until further notice with flights diverted to the city of Mandalay.
Electricity supplies and telecommunications in Yangon have been cut since late on Friday night as the storm bore down from the Bay of Bengal, packing winds of 190-240 kilometres per hour.
There are also fears that the poorer outlying areas of Yangon, with their flimsy houses, might have been hard hit.
Thailand’s meteorological department downgraded Nargis to a depression today, but warned of flash floods and heavy rains in northern, central and eastern Thai provinces as the storm crept over the border from Burma.