Cyclone Nargis

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Posted by pompos 02/28/2009 @ 12:06

Tags : cyclone nargis, myanmar, asia, world

News headlines
Ghosts of Nargis haunt survivors - The National
People queue for drinking water in Yangon, where many struggle with the psychological effects of last year's Cyclone Nargis, which killed nearly 140000 people and left two million homeless. Khin Maung Win / AP Photo BANGKOK // One year after Cyclone...
Burma Still Recovering from Cyclone Nargis - Voice of America
By Daniel Schearf It has been one year since Burma was hit by cyclone Nargis, the worst natural disaster in the country's history. International emergency aid poured in after some weeks of obstruction from Burma 's military rulers....
Why is Burma's junta afraid of Suu Kyi? - BBC News
By Jonathan Head Last year, as the world tried to persuade Burma's military rulers to allow more foreign help for the victims of Cyclone Nargis, the country's renowned opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi passed a lonely anniversary in the isolation of...
Poetic Justice For All Civilians of Burma - Foreign Policy Journal
Following Cyclone Nargis which struck Burma's Irrawaddy region in May 2008, he declares that he has lost contact with 100 people, both relatives and friends. They are either dead or missing. At a recent gathering in Melbourne, Australia, to commemorate...
Death waits patiently but enjoys help of evil men - Deseret News
Death was thrilled when Cyclone Nargis in 2008 devastated Myanmar and the ruling generals sealed off the country to deny aid to the washed out thousands of their own citizens. When corrupt contractors build shoddy schools and apartments and keep the...
Monsoon rains threaten Myanmar cyclone survivors-UN - Reuters
By Jonathan Lynn GENEVA, May 12 (Reuters) - One year after Cyclone Nargis devastated a swathe of Myanmar, and with the monsoon rains setting in once more, survivors need increased international aid to prevent more deaths, the United Nations said on...
Canada Marks One-Year Anniversary of Burma Cyclone Relief Fund - Market Wire (press release)
This fund was created to match donations of individual Canadians to Canadian charitable organizations working to assist populations affected by Cyclone Nargis, which caused widespread devastation in Burma. "Thanks to the generous response of Canadians,...
Myanmar: Cyclone Nargis – A year in review - ReliefWeb (press release)
I am writing this to commemorate the 1st anniversary of Cyclone Nargis that swept through the Irrawady Delta of Myanmar in May 2008. It has been a year, and what an intense year it has been. I still remember the day I arrived....
One Year After Cyclone Nargis CFI Continues Under the Radar in Burma. - Christian Freedom International
One year after Cyclone Nargis devastated Burma's Irrawaddy Delta, leaving more than 140000 dead and several thousand orphans in its wake, more than a hundred thousand survivors are still living in makeshift shelters and lack safe drinking water....
A look back at Cyclone Nargis - Toronto Star
Cyclone Nargis swept across southern Myanmar on the evening of May 2, 2008, leaving a trail of death and destruction before tapering off the next day. The winds and tidal surge caused by the cyclone damaged much of the fertile Ayeyarwady delta,...

Cyclone Nargis

Cyclone Nargis on May 1 as a category 2 storm

Cyclone Nargis (JTWC designation: 01B, also known as Very Severe Cyclonic Storm Nargis), was a strong tropical cyclone that caused the worst natural disaster in the recorded history of Burma (officially known as Myanmar). The cyclone made landfall in the country on May 2, 2008, causing catastrophic destruction and at least 146,000 fatalities with thousands more people still missing. The Labutta Township alone was reported to have 80,000 dead, with about 10,000 more deaths in Bogale; and many other deaths were found in other towns and areas, although the Burmese government's official death toll was grossly underreported as they had simply stopped counting the dead to minimize political fallout. It was feared and quite possible that due to lack of relief efforts, a total of a million people already had or would have died from this catastrophe. Damage was estimated at over $10 billion (USD), which made it the most damaging cyclone ever recorded in this basin.

Nargis is the deadliest named cyclone in the North Indian Ocean Basin, as well as the second deadliest named cyclone of all time, behind Typhoon Nina of 1975. Including unnamed storms like the 1970 Bhola cyclone, Nargis is the 8th deadliest cyclone of all time, but an uncertainty between the deaths caused by Nargis and those caused by other cyclones (like the 1991 Bangladesh cyclone), could put Nargis as 7th deadliest or higher, because the exact death toll is unknown. Nargis was the first tropical cyclone to strike the country since Cyclone Mala made landfall in 2006, which was slightly stronger, but had a significantly lower impact.

Relief efforts were slowed for political reasons as Burma's military rulers initially resisted aid. U.S. President George W. Bush said that an angry world should condemn the way Burma's military rulers were handling the aftermath of a catastrophic cyclone. Burma's ruling party finally accepted aid a few days after India's request was accepted. Continued hampering of relief efforts were the unfortunate fact that only ten days after the cyclone nearby central China was hit by a massive earthquake, known as the Sichuan earthquake which measured 7.9 in magnitude and it alone had taken 87,476 lives, and caused 85 billion dollars in damage (USD), making it the costliest disaster in Chinese history and third costliest disaster worldwide. Furthermore, some donated aid items were found to be available in the country's black market, and Myanmar's junta warned on May 15 that legal action would be taken against people who traded or hoarded international aid.

The cyclone name "Nargis" (نرگس, IPA: næɵr-ɡɵs), is an Urdu word meaning daffodil, which has its roots in the Persian Nargess (given name), which has the same meaning. The first named storm of the 2008 North Indian Ocean cyclone season, Nargis developed on April 27 in the central area of Bay of Bengal. Initially it tracked slowly northwestward and, encountering favorable conditions, it quickly strengthened. Dry air weakened the cyclone on April 29, though after beginning a steady eastward motion Nargis rapidly intensified to attain peak winds of at least 165 km/h (105 mph) on May 2 according to IMD observations; the JTWC assessed peak winds of 215 km/h (135 mph), making it a weak Category 4 cyclone on the SSHS. The cyclone moved ashore in the Ayeyarwady Division of Burma at peak intensity and, after passing near the major city of Yangon (Rangoon), the storm gradually weakened until dissipating near the border of Burma and Thailand.

In the last week of April 2008, an area of deep convection persisted near a low-level circulation in the Bay of Bengal about 1150 km (715 mi) east-southeast of Chennai, India. With good outflow and low wind shear, the system slowly organized as its circulation consolidated. At 0300 UTC on April 27, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) classified the system as a depression, and nine hours later the system intensified into a deep depression. At the same time, the Joint Typhoon Warning Center classified it as Tropical Cyclone 01B. With a ridge to its north, the system tracked slowly north-northwestward as banding features improved. At 0000 UTC, 5:30 AM Indian Standard Time, on April 28, the IMD upgraded the system to Cyclonic Storm Nargis while it was located about 550 km (340 mi) east of Chennai, India.

On April 28 Nargis became nearly stationary while located between ridges to its northwest and southeast. That day the JTWC upgraded the storm to cyclone status, the equivalent of a minimal hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale. Around the same time, the IMD upgraded Nargis to a severe cyclonic storm. The cyclone developed a concentric eye feature, which is an eyewall outside the inner dominant eyewall, with warm waters aiding in further intensification. Early on April 29, the JTWC estimated Nargis reached winds of 160 km/h (100 mph), and at the same time the IMD classified the system as a very severe cyclonic storm. Initially, the cyclone was forecast to strike Bangladesh or southeastern India. Subsequently, the cyclone became disorganized and weakened due to subsidence and drier air; as a result, deep convection near the center markedly decreased. At the same time, the storm began a motion to the northeast around the periphery of a ridge to its southeast. The circulation remained strong despite the diminishing convection, though satellite intensity estimates using the Dvorak technique indicated the cyclone could have weakened to tropical storm status. By late on April 29, convection had begun to rebuild, though immediate restrengthening was prevented by increased wind shear.

On May 1, after turning nearly due eastward, Cyclone Nargis began rapidly intensifying, due to greatly improved outflow in association with an approaching upper-level trough. Strengthening continued as it developed a well-defined eye with a diameter of 19 km (12 mi), and early on May 2 the JTWC estimated the cyclone reached peak winds of 215 km/h (135 mph) as it approached the coast of Burma, making it a Category 4 storm. At the same time, the IMD assessed Nargis as attaining peak winds of 165 km/h (105 mph). Around 1200 UTC on May 2, Cyclone Nargis made landfall in the Ayeyarwady Division of Burma at peak strength. The storm gradually weakened as it proceeded east over Burma, with its proximity to the Andaman Sea preventing rapid weakening. Its track turned to the northeast due to the approach of a mid-latitude trough to its northwest, passing just north of Yangon with winds of 130 km/h (80 mph). Early on May 3 the IMD issued its final advisory on the storm. It quickly weakened after turning to the northeast toward the rugged terrain near the Burma-Thailand border, and after deteriorating to minimal tropical storm status, the JTWC issued its last advisory on Nargis.

In Sri Lanka the cyclone produced heavy rainfall which led to flooding and landslides across ten districts in the country. The districts of Ratnapura and Kegalle were the most affected, where more than 3,000 families were displaced. Thousands of houses were flooded, with 21 reported destroyed. The rainfall left 4,500 people homeless, and more than 35,000 people were affected on the island. Three people were reported injured on the island, with two others dead.

The India Meteorological Department recommended that fishermen should not sail on the ocean during the passage of Nargis. Strong waves and gusty winds were expected along the Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh coastline in India. Additionally, the influence of the cyclone lowered temperatures along the Indian coastline, which had been affected by a severe heat wave.

When the cyclone was originally expected to strike near Bangladesh, officials requested farmers to hurriedly finish harvesting the rice crop. At the time, the country was experiencing severe food shortages from Cyclone Sidr in the previous year and flooding earlier in the year, and a direct strike from Nargis would have resulted in destroyed crops due to strong winds.

The United Nations estimated that 1.50 million people were "severely affected" by this cyclone. Estimates of the people still missing were 55,917, with 77,738 confirmed dead. Some NGOs estimating that the final toll would be over 100,000. At least 10,000 people were reported to have perished in the delta town of Bogale alone.

Nargis was the deadliest tropical cyclone worldwide since the 1970 Bhola cyclone, which killed nearly 500,000 people. One aid worker claimed that the death toll from the cyclone and its aftermath might reach 300,000; if correct, Nargis would be the 2nd deadliest cyclone ever, and the fifth deadliest natural disaster of the 20th century, after the Yellow River floods, the 1976 Tangshan earthquake and the Bhola Cyclone in Bangladesh.

Because Burma's military leaders did not count the full death toll from Nargis, leaving the area shortly after it hit, and the fact that thousands more people were still missing or washed out at sea, it was feared up to 1 million people might have died in this disaster. If this proved to be the case, Nargis would be the deadliest cyclone ever recorded, and the third deadliest natural disaster ever recorded in history, behind the Yellow River floods of 1887 and 1931 in China. The final death toll from Nargis was at least 146,000, because there were 90,000 people confirmed dead at one point, and 56,000 other people were missing, but they were never found since it struck, so it was assumed that these 56,000 missing people were killed, and thus, its death toll would exceed that of the 1991 storm and make it the deadliest since the 1970 storm. It is now thought that hundreds of thousands of people will never be found after Nargis because their bodies have decayed, buried, or washed out to sea.

Andrew Kirkwood, country director of the British charity Save The Children, stated: "We're looking at 50,000 dead and millions of homeless, I'd characterise it as unprecedented in the history of Burma and on an order of magnitude with the effect of the tsunami on individual countries. There might well be more dead than the tsunami caused in Sri Lanka." Foreign aid workers estimated that 2 to 3 million were homeless, in the worst disaster in Burma's history, whose total damage is comparable to that of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

Thousands of buildings were destroyed; in the town of Labutta, located in the Ayeyarwady Division, state television reported that 75 percent of buildings had collapsed and 20 percent had their roofs ripped off. One report indicated that 95 percent of buildings in the Irrawaddy Delta area were destroyed.The Ministry of Religious Affairs stated that 1,163 temples were destroyed in Ayeyarwady Division and 284 in Yangon Division.

The Burmese government formally declared five regions—Yangon, Ayeyarwady, Bago Divisions and Mon and Kayin States— as disaster areas.

A United Nations official commented on the situation as follows: "It's a bad situation. Almost all the houses are smashed. People are in a terrible situation," he said. Another UN official said that "The Irrawaddy delta was hit extremely hard not only because of the wind and rain but because of the storm surge." A diplomat in Yangon told the Reuters news agency that the area around him looked like a 'war zone' as a result of the cyclone. Burst sewage mains caused the landscape to flood with waste, ruining the rice crop.

The Daily Telegraph (UK) reported that food prices in Burma could be affected by this disaster. Woradet Wirawekhin (th: วรเดช วีระเวคิน), Deputy Director General of Thailand's Department of Information, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stated on 7 May 2008 that, in reference to a report submitted by Bansan Bunnak (th: บรรสาน บุนนาค), the Thai ambassador in Yangon, conditions in the city had deteriorated, and that most businesses and markets were closed. Mr.Wirawekhin also reported that the locals faced even more adversity in basic subsistence, because local food prices had increased two- or threefold.

On May 6, 2008, the Burma government representation in New York formally asked the United Nations for help, but in other ways it remained resistant to the most basic assistance. As of May 7, 2008, the government of Burma had not officially endorsed international assistance, but stated that they were, "willing to accept international assistance, preferably bilateral, government to government." The biggest challenge was obtaining visas for entry into the country.

According to Thai Rath Newspaper of Thailand on 8 May 2008, in the afternoon (Bangkok time) of 7 May 2008, the Burmese junta permitted Italian flights containing relief supplies from the United Nations, and twenty-five tonnes of consumable goods, to land in Burma. However, many nations and organizations hoped to deliver assistance and relief to Burma without delay; most of their officials, supplies and stores were waiting in Thailand and at the Yangon airport, as the Burmese junta declined to issue visas for many of those individuals. These political tensions raised the concern that some food and medical supplies might become unusable, even before the Burmese junta officially accepted the international relief effort.

India, one of the few countries which maintains close relations with Burma, launched Operation Sahayata under which two Indian Navy ships and two Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft supplied the first international relief material to the cyclone-hit country. The two aircraft carried 4 tonnes of relief supplies each while the Indian Navy transported more than 100 tonnes of relief material. On May 8, the IAF dispatched its third air consignment carrying over 32 tonnes of relief material including tents, blankets and medicines. India planned to send more aid to Burma. In a separate development, Burma denied Indian search and rescue teams and media access to critical cyclone-hit areas. India released a statement saying it had requested Burma to accept international aid especially that from the United States, to which Burma agreed. According to various reports, Indian authorities had warned Burma about the danger that Cyclone Nargis posed 48 hours before it hit the country's coast. As of 16 May 2008, India's offer to send a team of 50 medical personnel to set up two independent mini-hospitals in the Irrawaddy delta was accepted by the Myanmar government. An aircraft carrying the team of doctors and approximately 6 tonnes of medicines was being prepared at Delhi's Palam Air Force Base.

Italy provided 465,000 euros (about $732,282) worth of aid in the form of 30 tons of emergency relief equipment, such as stretchers, generators, and water purifiers in a flight organized by the World Food Program (WFP). The flight arrived in Yangon on May 8. This was the first aid flight from a Western nation, preceded only by aid from Thailand.

In addition to this aid, the Italian government provided 500,000 euros through the WFP and 500,000 euros through funding to relief agencies through the UN. An additional 123,000 euros was provided through the Red Cross, as well as 300,000 euros worth of further financing for emergency equipment.

Malaysia would channel US$1 million (RM3.2 million) in financial assistance and RM500,000 in humanitarian aid to Burma. Humanitarian aid would be transported by Hercules C130 and would include 5,000 blankets, 30 tents and RM100,000 worth of T-shirts, batik sarong, biscuits, instant noodles and medicines. Mercy Malaysia, a volunteer relief organization in Malaysia, was sending a four-member relief team to Rangoon, Burma, to assess the situation in the wake of Cyclone Nargis. They would start looking into areas such as shelter, clean water, sanitation and emergency medical treatment. Mercy Malaysia also trained 180 doctors from the Myanmar Medical Association in Yangon for deployment in the Irrawaddy Delta. RM 1.8 mil was collected for victims of Myanmar’s cyclone victims through The Star Myanmar Relief Fund and handed to Mercy Malaysia executive council member Dr Ahmad Faizal Perdaus. A second Malaysian Red Crescent Society (MRCS) disaster relief team was sent to Myanmar on May 21, 2008. MRCS announced they would bring 2.5 tonnes of relief items, which include 1,000 blankets, 1,000 jerry cans, 1,000 mosquito nets, 500 mats, 7,000 mineral water bottles and 500 bags of health kits.

Thailand sent $100,000 USD in supplies, thirty tonnes of medical supplies and twelve tonnes of food supplies from Thai Red Cross. Additionally, Chaiya Sasomsap, Minister of Public Health of Thailand, stated that the Government had already sent medical supplies valued more than one billion baht ($31.3 million) to Burma. Furthermore, the Government of Thailand dispatched, upon the permission of the Burmese junta, twenty medical teams and twenty quick communicable disease suppression units. Samak Sundaravej stated that "if Myanmar gives the green light allowing us to help, our Air Force will provide C-130 aircraft to carry our teams there. This should not be precipitately carried out, it has to have the permission of their government." On 7 May 2008, those units, with their subordinate airplanes, were permitted to land in Yangon, carrying drinking water and construction material.

The largest pledged sum from any single nation was donated by the United Kingdom which committed ₤17 million (approx USD $33.5 million). The UK's Department for International Development sent an international relief team to help with the co-ordination of the international relief effort. Another team from the same department was also on the ground inside Burma. The Royal Navy dispatched HMS Westminster to the area to assist. This ship was part of the Orion 08 group deployment but was detached on a contingency tasking.This mission was codenamed Operation Songster. Prime Minister Gordon Brown remained extremely critical of the Burmese régime and had not ruled out violating Burmese sovereignty by carrying out "forced airdrops" to deliver aid.

On May 5, U.S. Chargé d'Affaires in Burma Shari Villarosa declared a disaster due to the effects of Cyclone Nargis. In response, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) deployed a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) and immediately provided $251,000 to UNICEF, WFP, and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for emergency food, water and sanitation, and shelter assistance.

On May 6, an additional $3 million from USAID was allocated for the provision of emergency relief assistance, including $1 million to the American Red Cross and $2 million for NGO partners and on May 12, USAID Administrator Henrietta H. Fore announced $13 million in food aid and logistics assistance through the World Food Programme.

From May 12 to 20, USAID and the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) coordinated the delivery of nearly $1.2 million of U.S. relief commodities to Rangoon on 36 DOD C-130 flights. The relief supplies would provide assistance to more than 113,000 beneficiaries. The DOD efforts were under the direction of Joint Task Force Caring Response.

As of June 26, 2008, United States assistance had totaled $41,169,769 and continued to be directed by the USAID DART stationed in Thailand.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies had pledged $189,000 for relief. The Federation had also launched an appeal of a further CHF73.9 million. Red Cross spokesman Matt Cochrane said that cyclone survivors needed everything. They needed emergency shelter to keep them dry, including food supplies. He said stagnant waters were a perfect breeding ground for the malaria mosquito, so insecticide-treated nets were needed. The Red Cross suffered a setback when a boat carrying supplies sank when it hit a submerged tree. Everyone aboard survived, but most of the cargo was lost. Ten Red Cross/Red Crescent relief flights carrying medical and shelter supplies were due to land in Yangon on 12 May.

Trocaire, has been active in Burma since 1995 and were the first Irish aid agency to gain access after Cyclone Nargis. Relief work has been conducted mainly through local partners and membership of the international federation, Caritas Internationalis. Trocaire had appealed for the focus of humanitarian work in Burma not to be lost in the wake of China's more recent earthquake.

Save the Children, one of the few agencies allowed to work in Burma, said the toll would likely sharply grow in the next few days as help reached isolated areas. On May 18, it announced that it believed that thirty thousand children younger than five were already facing malnutrition and could starve in under a month if food did not reach them.

Doctors without Borders (MSF) landed a plane full of 40 tons of relief and medical supplies in Rangoon. After clearing customs the supplies were transferred to local MSF warehouses. They have approximately 200 workers in the region, many whom have been involved in long term projects there and were already in the region.

World Vision launched a US$3 million appeal and sought to get international aid into the country. Staff on the ground were working to distribute food, water and other non-food items while WV Myanmar managers sought approval from the government to work in the worst affected areas and to bring in aid from outside.

Avaaz.org raised over US$2 million for relief efforts in Burma, through over 25,062 individual donations. They entrusted delivery and dissemination of the aid to the Burmese monks, bypassing the military junta. This unique approach proved successful. As of 2008-05-24, US$550,000 was confirmed delivered to the religious establishment with another US$1,000,000 en-route.

The Irrawaddy Delta is such a fertile area for rice growing that it was known as the "rice bowl" of the British Empire. Production was high enough that Burma could feed its citizens a high amount of rice (by the standards of Asia) with enough left over to sell on the market. Since Nargis hit right around harvest, a rice shortage and famine could result. The United Nations' Food and Agricultural Organization estimated that Nargis impacted 65% of the country's paddies. They feel that the situation would be "devastating... if the recent disaster results in severe rice shortages." This might exacerbate the crisis already occurring, but it could be partially alleviated if fall and late summer harvests were good. Burma had since appealed for aid to assist with getting the rice planted, as its farmers had a 40 to 50-day window of opportunity before the season's crop would be lost. The Myanmar government estimated losses of $10 billion USD because of the cyclone.

Burma's military junta said "the country is not ready to accept foreign aid workers", amid mounting criticism and outrage of its response to the devastating cyclone. The World Food Programme's Paul Risley said the delays were "unprecedented in modern humanitarian relief efforts". In the days after the storm, the junta pursued a CNN reporter covering the effects of the storm. The reporter was eventually forced to leave the country out of fear of being imprisoned.

Thairath Newspaper of Thailand reported that many Burmese people were displeased with the junta government, as they had provided no appropriate warning system for the incoming cyclone. In addition, they believed the mayhem caused by the cyclone and associated flooding was further exacerbated by an uncooperative response from the junta. For example, with no appropriate measures currently in place to manage the increasing number of dead bodies in the cyclone's aftermath, it was reported that the corpses were now simply being abandoned on the streets, with the situation worsening as time passed, exemplifying foreign concerns that the emergence and spread of communicable diseases would ensue. In addition, the International Society for Political Prisoner Assistance, located in Bangkok, reported human rights oversights during the disaster, alleging that corrections officers employed with the government had fired upon the prisoners of Yangon's Insein Prison who were attempting to escape amidst the chaos. It was reported that 36 prisoners were killed and about 70 others were injured. The Burmese junta denied both reports.

On 9 May 2008, the junta officially declared that their acceptance of international aid relief would be limited to food, medicines and other supplies as well as financial aid, but would not allow additional foreign aid workers or military units to operate in the country. Samak Sundaravej, Prime Minister of Thailand, stated that, following the request of Eric G. John, U.S. Ambassador to Thailand, he would visit Myanmar on 11 May in order to urge the junta to open the country. Quinton Quayle, U.K. Ambassador to Thailand, later remarked that he would also join Sundaravej. However, the junta immediately replied that it was not willing to welcome anyone at this time. Sundaravej said that he would still submit the mediating letter to the junta without delay.

The delays had attracted international condemnation. Also, on 9 May in Bangkok, Richard Horsey, representative of the United Nations, issued a warning for Myanmar to no longer decline the full scale of international relief effort as another storm, as deadly as the Nargis, was headed towards the country. The new storm would probably worsen the circumstances. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged the junta to allow aid in "without hindrance". Ban's comments came after the World Food Programme resumed food aid after two shipments of high energy biscuits were stolen by the military. The Canadian House of Commons condemned the Burmese government's response in a resolution passed unanimously on May 9, 2008. Oxfam International's regional chief Sarah Ireland warned that 1.5 million face death if they did not get clean water and sanitation soon: "It's really crucial that people get access to clean water sources and sanitation to avoid unnecessary deaths and suffering." Myanmar's government seemd unaware of the scope of the death and destruction Cyclone Nargis wrought on the country more than a week ago, it was reported May 13, 2008. Some critics were even suggesting genocide since the Burmese government had deliberately denied storm victims aid, allowing for hundreds of thousands to potentially die from starvation, exposure, and disease.

On May 16, 2008, the Burmese UN ambassador accused France of deploying a warship to the Burmese coast. The French UN ambassador denied the LHD Mistral was a warship, and claimed Burma's refusal to allow increased aid into the country "could lead to a true crime against humanity." France stated the ship in question was carrying 1,500 tons of relief supplies. UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown accused the ruling junta of allowing the disaster to grow into a "man-made catastrophe" through its failure to act. He also rebuked the junta as being guilty of inhuman actions.

On May 19, Burma agreed to allow aid from members of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) to enter. The decision came after an emergency ASEAN summit. The aid would start arriving May 21. Ban Ki-moon would probably visit the country the same day to "accelerate relief efforts". That day, Ban announced that Burma was going to "allow all aid workers regardless of nationality" to enter, although ships and helicopters were still not expected to be allowed. The announcement came after Ban had met with junta leader General Than Shwe for over two hours. Organizations welcoming the announcement included World Vision, the World Food Programme, and the International Rescue Committee.

On May 23, negotiations between UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and Than Shwe resulted in the opening of Burma to aid workers, regardless of nationality. Burma's government was still staunchly opposed to the presence of military units in the country, only allowing dedicated relief workers. On June 5, a USS Essex-led American carrier group full of aid left the Burmese coast after being denied entry for several weeks, taking its aid back undelivered.

On May 27, to complicate world opinion and in contrast to numerous and varied accounts from international relief organizations, the Myanmar junta praised U.N. aid.

On June 5, 2008, Amnesty International released a report saying that at least thirty people had been evicted from refugee camps. The report also indicated that the military was horse-trading aid for physical labour.

Despite objections raised by the Burmese opposition parties and foreign nations in the wake of the natural disaster, the junta proceeded with a previously scheduled (10 May 2008) constitutional referendum. Voting however was postponed until 24 May 2008 in Yangon and other areas hardest hit by the storm.

On 8 May 2008, about thirty protesters assembled before the Burmese embassy in Manila, Philippines, demanding that the junta defer voting on the referendum and immediately accept international relief. The Philippine protesters delivered the statement that "this time is not the time for politics, but it is the time to save people." The United States Government also demanded that the United Nations not endorse the referendum. Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the Burmese opposition, also stated that holding a vote for the referendum during this disaster would be an consumedly unacceptable act. About 500 Myanmar activists demonstrated on 10 May outside their country's embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, demanding that Myanmar's military regime call off its constitutional referendum even as voting began despite a devastating cyclone.

In a public poll conducted throughout Myanmar on 9 May 2008 by Mizzima, a Burmese news agency, 64% of those surveyed still intended to vote in the referendum. However, 71% did not know what the constitution was, and 52% had not yet decided whether they would vote to support or oppose it.

AP news stories stated that foreign aid provided to disaster victims was modified to make it look like it came from the military regime, and state-run television continuously ran images of Gen. Than Shwe ceremonially handing out disaster relief.

More than a week after the disaster, only one out of 10 people who were homeless, injured or threatened by disease and hunger had received some kind of aid.. More than two weeks later, relief had only reached 25 percent of people in need.

Nine days after the cyclone, the military government was still refusing to grant visas and access for aid workers into the area. The UN called for an air or sea corridor to be opened to channel large amounts of aid, and the HMS Westminster was sent to the area, alongside French and United States military assets.

A Facebook.com page called Support the Relief Efforts for Burma (Myanmar) Cyclone Disaster Victims with 10,000 members used its members to organize a Global Day Of Action for Burma on May 17, 2008. with the help of Burma Global Action Network, Burma Campaign UK, Canadian Friends of Burma, the US Campaign for Burma, Info Birmanie, as well as countless local partners, a Global Day of Action for Burma a call for Humanitarian Intervention was held on May 17, 2008, in cities worldwide. An apparent response to the junta's blockade of aid to the Cyclone Nargis victims, the international community called for a humanitarian intervention to get aid into the hardest hit areas of Burma.

Nargis did set many records for its death toll, but Nargis also set other records. First, it was the only Category 4 storm to hit Burma in history at that strength. Second, when it reached Category 4 on the SSHS on May 2, it marked the only time that a Category 4 storm had formed in this basin for 3 consecutive years in a row (starting with 2006's Mala), going into 2007 with Sidr and Gonu, and ending with Nargis.

The exact death toll from Nargis will likely never be known for sure, but it was most likely one of the deadliest tropical cyclones worldwide in recorded history.

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2008 Sichuan earthquake

2008 Sichuan earthquake map no labels.svg

The nineteenth deadliest earthquake of all time, the 2008 Sichuan earthquake (simplified Chinese: 四川大地震; traditional Chinese: 四川大地震; pinyin: Sìchuān dà dìzhèn), or "Great Sichuan Earthquake", which measured at 8.0 Ms and 7.9 Mw occurred at 14:28:01.42 CST (06:28:01.42 UTC) on May 12, 2008 in Sichuan province of China and by any name killed at least 69,000, less than three months before China hosted the world in the 2008 Summer Olympics.

It was also known as the Wenchuan earthquake (simplified Chinese: 汶川大地震; traditional Chinese: 汶川大地震; pinyin: Wènchuān dà dìzhèn), after the earthquake's epicenter in Wenchuan County, Sichuan province. The epicenter was 80 kilometres (50 mi) west-northwest of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan, with a depth of 19 kilometres (12 mi). The earthquake was also felt in nearby countries and felt as far away as both Beijing and Shanghai — 1,500 kilometres (932 mi) and 1,700 kilometres (1,056 mi) away — where office buildings swayed with the tremor.

Official figures (as of July 21, 2008 12:00 CST) state that 69,227 are confirmed dead, including 68,636 in Sichuan province, and 374,176 injured, with 18,222 listed as missing. The earthquake left about 4.8 million people homeless, though the number could be as high as 11 million. Approximately 15 million people lived in the affected area. It was the deadliest earthquake to hit China since the 1976 Tangshan earthquake, which killed at least 240,000 people, and the strongest since the 1950 Chayu earthquake in the country, which registered at 8.5 on Richter magnitude scale.

Strong aftershocks, some exceeding magnitude 6, continue to hit the area even months after the main quake, causing new casualties and damage.

On 6 November 2008, the central government announced that it will spend 1 trillion yuan (about $146.5 billion) over the next three years to rebuild areas ravaged by the earthquake.

The earthquake had a magnitude of 8.0 Ms and 7.9 Mw. The epicenter was in Wenchuan County, Ngawa Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, 80 km west/northwest of the provincial capital city of Chengdu, with its main tremor occurring at 14:28:01.42 CST (06:28:01.42 UTC), on Monday May 12, 2008 lasting for around 3 minutes.

According to a study by the China Earthquake Administration (CEA), the earthquake occurred along the Longmenshan fault, a thrust formation along the border of theIndo-Australian Plate and Eurasian Plate. Seismic activities concentrated on its mid-fracture (known as Yingxiu-Beichuan fracture). The rupture lasted close to 120 sec, with the majority of energy released in the first 80 sec. Starting from Wenchuan, the rupture propagated at an average speed of 3.1 kilometers per second 49° toward north east, rupturing a total of about 300 km. Maximum displacement amounted to 9 meters. The epicenter was deeper than 10 km.

In a United States Geological Survey (USGS) study, preliminary rupture models of the earthquake indicated displacement of up to 9 meters along a fault approximately 240 km long by 20 km deep. The earthquake generated deformations of the surface greater than 3 meters and increased the stress (and probability of occurrence of future events) at the northeastern and southwestern ends of the fault. On May 20, USGS seismologist Tom Parsons warned that there is "high risk" of a major M>7 aftershock over the next weeks or months.

Japanese seismologist Yuji Yagi said that the earthquake occurred in two stages: "The 155-mile Longmenshan Fault tore in two sections, the first one ripping about seven yards, followed by a second one that sheared four yards." Yagi's data also showed that the earthquake lasted about two minutes and released 30 times the energy of the Great Hanshin earthquake of 1995 in Japan, which killed over 6,000 people. He pointed out that the shallowness of the epicenter and the density of population greatly increased the severity of the earthquake. Teruyuki Kato, a seismologist at the University of Tokyo, said that the seismic waves of the quake traveled a long distance without losing their power because of the firmness of the terrain in central China.. According to reports from Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, the earthquake tremors lasted for "about two or three minutes".

Between 64-104 major aftershocks, ranging in magnitude from 4.0 to 6.1, were recorded within 72 hours of the main quake. According to Chinese official counts, "by 12:00 CST, November 6, 2008 there had been 42,719 total aftershocks, of which 246 ranged from 4.0 MS to 4.9 MS, 34 from 5.0 MS to 5.9 MS, and 8 from 6.0 Ms to 6.9 MS; the strongest aftershock measured 6.4 MS." The latest aftershock exceeding M6 occurred on August 5, 2008.

The map of earthquake intensity published by CEA after surveying 500,000 km2 of the affected area shows a maximum liedu of XI on the China Seismic Intensity Scale (CSIS), described as "very destructive" on the European Macroseismic Scale (EMS) from which CSIS drew reference. (USGS, using the Modified Mercalli intensity scale (MM), also placed maximum intensity at XI, "very disastrous".) Two south-west-north-east stripes of liedu XI are centered around Yingxiu, Wenchuan (the town closest to the epicenter of the main quake) and Beichuan (the town repeatedly struck by strong aftershocks including one registering MS 6.1 on Aug 1, 2008), both in Sichuan Province, occupying a total of 2,419 km2. The Yingxiu liedu-XI zone is about 66 km long and 20 km wide along Wenchuan-Dujiangyan-Pengzhou; the Beichuan liedu-XI zone is about 82 km long and 15 km wide along An County-Beichuan-Pingwu. The area with liedu X (comparable to X on EMS, "destructive" and X on MM, "disastrous") spans 3,144 km2. The area affected by earthquakes exceeding liedu VI totals 440,442 km2, occupying an oval 936 km long and 596 km wide, spanning three provinces and one autonomous region.

The extent of the earthquake and after shock-affected areas lies north-east, along the Longmen Shan fault.

The earthquake occurred as the result of motion on a northeast striking reverse fault or thrust fault on the northwestern margin of the Sichuan Basin. The earthquake’s epicenter and focal-mechanism are consistent with it having occurred as the result of movement on the Longmenshan fault or a tectonically related fault. The earthquake reflects tectonic stresses resulting from the convergence of crustal material slowly moving from the high Tibetan Plateau, to the west, against strong crust underlying the Sichuan Basin and southeastern China.

On a continental scale, the seismicity of central and eastern Asia is a result of northward convergence of the Indian Plate against the Eurasian Plate with a velocity of about 50 mm/y. The convergence of the two plates is broadly accommodated by the uplift of the Asian highlands and by the motion of crustal material to the east away from the uplifted Tibetan Plateau. The northwestern margin of the Sichuan Basin has previously experienced destructive earthquakes. The magnitude 7.5 earthquake of August 25, 1933 killed more than 9,300 people.

The earthquake occurred 92 km northwest of the city of Chengdu in eastern Sichuan province and over 1500 km from Beijing, where it was also strongly felt. Earthquakes of this size have the potential to cause extensive damage and loss of life. The epicenter was in the mountains of the Eastern Margin of Qing-Tibet Plateau at the northwest margin of the Sichuan Basin. The earthquake occurred as a result of motion on a northeast striking thrust fault that runs along the margin of the basin. The seismicity of central and eastern Asia is caused by the northward movement of the India plate at a rate of 5 cm/year and its collision with Eurasia, resulting in the uplift of the Himalaya and Tibetan plateaux and associated earthquake activity. This deformation also results in the extrusion of crustal material from the high Tibetan Plateaux in the west towards the Sichuan Basin and southeastern China. China frequently suffers large and deadly earthquakes. In August 1933, the magnitude 7.5 Diexi earthquake, about 90 km northeast of today's earthquake, destroyed the town of Diexi and surrounding villages, and caused many landslides, some of which dammed the rivers.

Office buildings in Shanghai's financial district, including the Jin Mao Tower and the Hong Kong New World Tower, were evacuated. A receptionist at the Tibet Hotel in Chengdu said things were "calm" after the hotel evacuated its guests. Meanwhile, workers at a Ford plant in Sichuan were evacuated for about 10 minutes. The Chengdu airport was shut down, and the control tower and regional radar control evacuated. One SilkAir flight was diverted and landed in nearby Kunming as a result. Cathay Pacific delayed both legs of its quadruple daily Hong Kong to London route due to this disruption in air traffic services. Chengdu airport reopened later on the evening of May 12, offering limited service as the airport began to be used as a staging area for relief operations.

Reporters in Chengdu said they saw cracks on walls of some residential buildings in the downtown areas, but no building collapsed. Many Beijing office towers were evacuated, including the building housing the media offices for the organizers of the 2008 Summer Olympics. None of the Olympic venues were damaged. Meanwhile, a cargo train carrying 13 petrol tanks derailed in Huixian County, Gansu Province, and caught on fire after the rail was distorted.

All of the highways into Wenchuan, and others throughout Sichuan province, were damaged, resulting in delayed arrival of the rescue troops. In Beichuan county, 80% of the buildings collapsed according to Xinhua News. In the city of Shifang, the collapse of two chemical plants led to leakage of some 80 tons of liquid ammonia, with hundreds of people reported buried. In the city of Dujiangyan, south-east of the epicenter, a whole school collapsed with 900 students buried and 50 dead. The Juyuan Middle School, where many teenagers were buried, was excavated by civilians and cranes. Dujiangyan is home of the Dujiangyan Irrigation System, an ancient water diversion project which is still in use and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The project's famous Fish Mouth was cracked but not severely damaged otherwise.

Both the Shanghai Stock Exchange and the Shenzhen Stock Exchange suspended trading of companies based in southwestern China. Copper rose over speculations that production in southwestern China may be affected, and oil prices dropped over speculations that demand from China would fall.

China Mobile had more than 2,300 base stations suspended due to power disruption or severe telecommunication traffic congestion. Half of the wireless communications were lost in the Sichuan province. China Unicom's service in Wenchuan and four nearby counties was cut off, with more than 700 towers suspended.

Initially, officials were unable to contact the Wolong National Nature Reserve, home to around 280 giant pandas. However, China's Foreign Ministry later said that a group of 31 British tourists visiting the Wolong panda reserve in the quake-hit area returned safe and uninjured to the provincial capital. Nonetheless, the well-being of an even greater number of pandas in the neighbouring panda reserves remained unknown. Five security guards at the reserve were killed by the earthquake. Six pandas escaped after their enclosures were damaged. By May 20, two pandas at the reserve were found to be injured, while the search continued for another two adult pandas that went missing after the quake. By May 28, 2008, one panda was still missing. The missing panda was later found dead under the rubble of an enclosure. Nine-year-old Mao Mao, a mother of five at the breeding center, was discovered on Monday, her body crushed by a wall in her enclosure. Panda keepers and other workers placed her remains in a small wooden crate and buried her outside the breeding centre. A group of 26 Malaysian tourists including a 90-year-old woman who initially were missing after the earthquake were found alive. None of the Malaysian tourists were injured. They were located about four kilometres outside Maoxian.

The Zipingpu Hydropower Plant (simplified Chinese: 紫坪铺水库; traditional Chinese: 紫坪鋪水庫) located 20 km east of the epicenter was damaged. A recent inspection indicated that the damage was less severe than initially feared, and it remains structurally stable and safe. The Tulong reservoir upstream is in danger of collapse. About 2,000 troops have been allocated to Zipingpu, trying to release the pressure through spillway. In total, 391 dams, most of them small, were reported damaged by the quake.

China's Olympic Games organisers said that they would scale down the route of the torch through the country, and there was a minute of silence when the next leg started in the south-eastern city of Ruijin on the Wednesday after the quake.

According to Chinese state officials, the quake caused 69,181 known deaths including 68,636 in Sichuan province; 18,498 people are listed as missing, and 374,171 injured, but these figures may further increase as more reports come in. This estimate includes 158 earthquake relief workers who were killed in landslides as they tried to repair roads.

One rescue team reported only 2,300 survivors from Yingxiu, out of a total population of about 9,000. 3,000 to 5,000 people were killed in Beichuan county, Sichuan province alone, 10,000 injured and 80% of the buildings were destroyed. Eight schools were toppled in Dujiangyan. A 56-year-old Taiwanese tourist was killed in Dujiangyan during a rescue attempt on the Lingyanshan Ropeway, where due to the earthquake 11 Taiwanese tourists had been trapped inside cable cars since May 13. A 4-year-old Taiwanese boy named Chu Shao-wei (simplified Chinese: 朱绍维; traditional Chinese: 朱紹維; pinyin: Zhū Shàowéi) was also killed in Mianzhu City when a house collapsed on him and another Taiwanese was reported missing.

Experts point out that the earthquake hit an area that has been largely neglected and untouched by China's economic rise. Health care is poor in inland areas like Sichuan province, highlighting the widening gap between prosperous urban dwellers and struggling rural people. Vice Minister of Health Gao Qiang told reporters in Beijing that the "public health care system in China is insufficient." The Vice Minister of Health also suggested that the government would pick up the costs of care to earthquake victims, many of whom have little or no insurance: "The government should be responsible for providing medical treatment to them," he said.

The earthquake left at least 5 million people without housing, although the number could be as high as 11 million. Millions of livestock and a significant amount of agriculture were also destroyed, including 12.5 million animals, mainly birds. In the Sichuan province a million pigs died out of 60 million in Sichuan province. Catastrophe modeling firm AIR Worldwide reported official estimates of insurers' losses at US$1 billion from the earthquake; estimated total damages exceed US$20 billion. It values Chengdu, Sichuan Province’s capital city of 4.5 million people, at around US$115 billion, with only a small portion covered by insurance.

In the days following the disaster, an international reconnaissance team of engineers was dispatched to the region to make a detailed preliminary survey of damaged buildings. Their findings show a variety of reasons why many constructions failed to withstand the earthquake.

Even with the five largest cities in Sichuan suffering only minor damage from the quake, some estimates of the economic loss run higher than US$75 billion dollars, making the earthquake one of the costliest natural disasters in Chinese history.

Strong aftershocks continued to strike even months after the main quake. On May 25, an aftershock of 6.0 Mw (6.4 Ms according to CEA) hit northeast of the original earthquake's epicenter, in Qingchuan County, causing eight deaths, 1000 injuries, and destroying thousands of buildings. On May 27, two aftershocks, one 5.2 Mw in Qingchuan County and one 5.7 Mw in Ningqiang County in neighboring Shaanxi Province, led to the collapse of more than 420,000 homes and injured 63 people. The same area suffered two more aftershocks of 5.6 and 6.0 Ms (5.8 and 5.5 Mw, respectively, according to USGS) on July 23, resulting in 1 death, 6 serious injuries, collapse of hundreds of homes and damaging kilometers of highways. Pingwu County and Beichuan County, Sichuan, also northeast of Wenchuan and close to the epicenter of a 7.2 Ms earthquake in 1976, suffered a 6.1 Ms aftershock (5.7 Mw according to USGS) on August 1; it caused 2 deaths, 345 injuries, collapse of 707 homes, damages to over 1,000 homes, and blocked 25 kilometres (16 mi) of country roads. As late as August 5, yet another aftershock of 6.1 Ms (6.2 Mw according to USGS) hit Qingchuan, Sichuan, causing 1 death, 32 injuries, telecommunication interruptions, and widespread hill slides blocking roads in the area including a national highway.

Executive vice governor, Wei Hong, on November 21, 2008 confirmed that 19,065 identified schoolchildren died, and more than 90,000 people in total were dead or missing in the earthquake. He stated that 200,000 homes had been rebuilt, and 685,000 were under reconstruction, but 1.94 million households were still without permanent shelter. 1,300 schools had been reconstructed, with initial relocation of 25 townships, including Beichuan and Wenchuan, 2 of the most devastated areas. The government spent $441 billion dollars on relief and reconstruction efforts.

President Hu Jintao announced that the disaster response would be rapid. Just 90 minutes after the earthquake, Premier Wen Jiabao, who has an academic background in geomechanics, flew to the earthquake area to oversee the rescue work. Soon afterward, China's Health Ministry said that it had sent ten emergency medical teams to Wenchuan County in southwest China's Sichuan Province. On the same day, China's Chengdu Military Area Command dispatched 50,000 troops and armed police to help with disaster relief work in Wenchuan County. However, due to the rough terrain and close proximity of the quake's epicenter, the soldiers found it very difficult to get help to the rural regions of the province.

The National Disaster Relief Commission initiated a "Level II emergency contingency plan", which covers the most serious class of natural disasters. The plan rose to Level I at 22:15 CST, May 12.

An earthquake emergency relief team of 184 people (consisting of 12 people from the State Seismological Bureau, 150 from the Beijing Military Area Command, and 22 from the Armed Police General Hospital) left Beijing from Nanyuan Airport late May 12 in two military transport planes to travel to Wenchuan County.

Many rescue teams, including that of the Taipei Fire Department from Taiwan, were reported ready to join the rescue effort in Sichuan as early as Wednesday. However, the Red Cross Society of China said that (on May 13) "it was inconvenient currently due to the traffic problem to the hardest hit areas closest to the epicenter." The Red Cross Society of China also stated that the disaster areas need tents, medical supplies, drinking water and food; however it has recommended donating cash instead of other items, as it has not been possible to reach roads that were completely damaged or places that were blocked off by landslides. Landslides continuously threatened the progress of a search and rescue group of 80 men, each carrying about 40 kg of relief supplies, from a motorized infantry brigade under commander Yang Wenyao, as they tried to reach the ethnically Tibetan village of Sier at a height of 4000 m above sea level in Pingwu county. The extreme terrain conditions precluded the use of helicopter evacuation, and over 300 of the Tibetan villagers were stranded in their demolished village for five days without food and water before the rescue group finally arrived to help the injured and stranded villagers down the mountain.

Persistent heavy rain and landslides in Wenchuan County and the nearby area badly affected rescue efforts. At the start of rescue operations on May 12, 20 helicopters were deployed for the delivery of food, water, and emergency aid, and also the evacuation of the injured and reconnaissance of quake-stricken areas. By 17:37 CST on May 13, a total of over 15,600 troops and militia reservists from the Chengdu Military Region have joined the rescue force in the heavily affected areas. A commander reported from Yingxiu town, Wenchuan, that around 3,000 survivors were found, while the status of the other inhabitants (around 9,000) remains unclear. The 1,300 rescuers reached the epicenter, and 300 pioneer troops reached the main town of Wenchuan at about 23:30 CST. By 12:17 CST, May 14, 2008, communication in the major town of Wenchuan is partly revived. On the afternoon of May 14, 15 Special Operations Troops, along with relief supplies and communications gear, parachuted into inaccessible Maoxian County, northeast of Wenchuan.

By May 15, China's Premier Wen Jiabao ordered the deployment of an additional 90 helicopters, of which 60 were to be provided by the PLAAF, and 30 provided by the civil aviation industry, bringing the total of number of aircraft deployed in relief operations by the air force, army, and civil aviation to over 150, resulting in China's largest ever non-combat airlifting operation.

The Chinese Government accepted the aid of the Tzu Chi Foundation from Taiwan late on May 13. Tzu Chi was the first force from outside the People's Republic of China to join the rescue effort. China stated it would gratefully accept international help to cope with the quake.

A direct chartered cargo flight was made by China Airlines from Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport to Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport sending a sum of 100 tons of relief supplies donated by the Tzu Chi Foundation and the Red Cross Society of Taiwan to the affected areas. Approval from the PRC Government was sought, and the chartered flight departed Taipei at 17:00 CST, May 15 and arriving in Chengdu by 20:30 CST. A rescue team from the ROC Red Cross is also scheduled to depart Taipei on a Mandarin Airlines direct chartered flight to Chengdu at 15:00 CST on May 16.

Francis Marcus of the International Federation of the Red Cross praised China's rescue effort as "swift and very efficient" in Beijing on Tuesday. But he added the scale of the disaster was such that "we can't expect that the government can do everything and handle every aspect of the needs". The Economist noted that China reacted to the disaster "rapidly and with uncharacteristic openness", contrasting it with Burma's secretive response to Cyclone Nargis, which devastated that country 10 days before the earthquake.

On May 16, rescue groups from South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Russia and Taiwan arrived to join the rescue effort. The United States shared some of its satellite images of the quake-stricken areas with Chinese authorities. During the weekend, the US sent into China two U.S. Air Force C-17's carrying supplies, which included tents and generators. Xinhua reported 135,000 Chinese troops and medics are involved in the rescue effort across 58 counties and cities.

The Internet has been extensively used for passing information to aid rescue and recovery in China. For example, the official Xinhua has set up an online rescue request center in order to find the blind spots of disaster recovery. After knowing that rescue helicopters had trouble in landing into the epicenter in Wenchuan, a student proposed a landing spot online and it was chosen as the first touchdown place for the helicopters. Volunteers have also set up several websites to help store contact information for victims and evacuees. On May 31, a rescue helicopter carrying earthquake survivors and crew members crashed in fog and turbulence in Wenchuan county. None survived.

Rescue efforts performed by the Chinese government were praised by the critical western media, especially in comparison with Myanmar's blockage of foreign aid during Cyclone Nargis, as well as China's previous performance during the 1976 Tangshan earthquake. China has previously been accused of multiple counts of human rights abuses in the Darfur region and the Tibet Autonomous region. However, its "openness" during the media covering of the Sichuan earthquake led a professor at the University of Beijing to say, “This is the first time the Chinese media has lived up to international standards”. Los Angeles Times praised China's media coverage of the quake of being "democratic".

As the result of the magnitude 8.0 earthquake and the many strong aftershocks, many rivers became blocked by large landslides, which resulted in the formation of "quake lakes"; these are massive amounts of water pooling up at a very high rate behind the landslide dams which will eventually crumble under the weight of the ever-increasing water mass, potentially endangering the lives of millions of people if the water is to build up, and then break downstream. As of May 27, 2008, 34 lakes had formed in nine earthquake-affected counties due to earthquake debris blocking and damming rivers, and it is estimated that 28 of them are still of potential danger to the local people. Entire villages had to be evacuated because of the resultant flooding. These so-called "quake lakes" also pose additional hazards as the natural dams forming them are breached, causing secondary flooding.

The most precarious of these quake-lakes is the one located in the extremely difficult terrain at Tangjiashan mountain, accessible only by foot or air; an Mi-26T heavy lift helicopter belonging to the China Flying Dragon Special Aviation Company was used to bring heavy earthmoving tractors to the affected location. This operation was coupled with the work done by PLAAF Mi-17 helicopters bringing in PLA engineering corps, explosive specialists, and other personnel to join 1,200 soldiers who arrived on site by foot. Five tons of fuel to operate the machinery was airlifted to the site, where a sluice was constructed to allow the safe discharge of the bottlenecked water. More than 200,000 people were evacuated from Mianyang by June 1 in anticipation of the dam bursting.

The State Council declared a three-day period of national mourning for the quake victims starting from May 19, 2008; the PRC's National Flag and Regional Flags of Hong Kong SAR and Macau SAR were raised at half mast. It is the first time that a national mourning period had been declared for something other than the death of a state leader, and many call it the biggest display of mourning since the death of Mao. At 14:28 CST on May 19, 2008, a week after the earthquake, the Chinese public held a moment of silence. People stood silent for three minutes while air defense, police and fire sirens, and the horns of vehicles, vessels and trains sounded. Cars on Beijing's roads came to a halt. People spontaneously burst into cheering "China jiayou" and "Sichuan jiayou" afterwards.

The Ningbo Organizing Committee of Beijing Olympic torch relay announced that the relay would be suspended for the duration of the mourning period.

Many websites converted their front page to black and white; Sina.com and Sohu, major internet portals, limited their homepages to news items and removed all advertisements. Chinese video sharing websites youku and Tudou displayed a black background and only videos related to the earthquake were available on the homepage. The Chinese version of MSN, cn.msn.com, also displayed banners about the earthquake and the relief efforts. Other entertainment websites, including various gaming sites, were also blacked out, or had corresponding links to earthquake donations. After the moments of silence, in Tiananmen Square, crowds spontaneously burst out cheering various slogans, including "Long Live China". Casinos in Macau closed down, and servers for online computer games (such as World of Warcraft) were shut down.

All Mainland Chinese television stations, along with some Hong Kong stations, displayed their logo in grayscale, while broadcasting non-stop earthquake footage from CCTV-1. Even pay television channels, such as Channel V China, showed earthquake footage. Foreign broadcasts in expatriate communities were suspended for the days of mourning.

The Sichuan earthquake also proved to be a rather sensitive issue in terms of nationalistic fervor in China. In 2008, a girl called Zhang Ya (张雅) from Liaoning province, Northeast China, posted a 4 minute video of herself complaining about the amount of attention the Sichuan earthquake victims were receiving on television. An intense response from angry, nationalistic Internet vigilantes resulted in the girl's personal details (even including her blood type) being made available online, dozens of abusive video responses on Chinese websites and blogs. The girl was taken into police custody for three days.

On the evening of May 18, CCTV-1 hosted a special four-hour program called The Giving of Love (simplified Chinese: 爱的奉献; traditional Chinese: 愛的奉獻), hosted by regulars from the CCTV New Year's Gala and continual coverage anchor Bai Yansong, and attended by a wide range of entertainment, literary, business and political figures from mainland China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan. Donations of the evening totalled 1.5 billion Chinese Yuan (US$208 million). Of the donations, CCTV gave the biggest corporate contribution at Y50 million.

On May 24, Hong Kong actor Jackie Chan, who donated $1.57 million to the victims, announced that he wished to produce a film about the earthquake.

Although the Chinese government was initially praised for its response to the quake (especially in comparison to Myanmar's ruling military junta's blockade of aid during Cyclone Nargis), it has seen an erosion in confidence over the school construction scandal.

The central government estimates that over 7,000 inadequately engineered schoolrooms collapsed in the earthquake. Due to PRC's one-child policy, many families lost their only child when schools in the region collapsed during the earthquake. Consequently, local officials in Sichuan province have lifted the restriction for families whose only child was either killed or severely injured in the disaster. So-called "illegal children" under 18 years of age may be registered as legal replacements for their dead siblings; if the dead child was illegal, no further outstanding fines would apply. Reimbursment would not, however, be offered for fines that were already levied. Lifting of the restrictions may come as scant comfort to many, as some of the affected parents are too old to conceive again, while others have had themselves sterilized.

On May 29, 2008, government officials began inspecting the ruins of thousands of schools that collapsed, searching for clues about why they crumbled. Thousands of parents around the province have accused local officials and builders of cutting corners in school construction, citing that after the quake other nearby buildings were little damaged. In the aftermath of the quake, many local governments promised to formally investigate the school collapses, but as of July 17, across Sichuan, parents of children lost in collapsed schools complain they have yet to receive any reports.Local officials urged them not to protest but the parents demonstrated and demanded an investigation. Furthermore, censors have discouraged stories of poorly-built schools from being published in the media and there has been an incident where police drove away the protestors.

On Children's Day, June 1, 2008, many parents went to the rubble of schools to mourn for their children. The surviving children, who are now mostly living in refugee camps performed ceremonies marking the special day but also of the earthquake.

Ye Zhiping, the principal of Sangzao Middle School in Sangzao, one of the largest in An County, has been credited with proactive action that spared the lives of all 2323 pupils in attendance when the earthquake happened. During a three-year period that ended in 2007, he oversaw a major overhaul of his school. During that time he obtained more than 400,000 yuan (US$60,000) from the county education department, money used to widen and strengthen concrete pillars and the balcony railing of all four storeys of his school, as well as secure its concrete floors.

However, Reuters reported that Chinese prosecutors have so far joined an official inquiry into ten collapsed schools during last month's devastating earthquake to gain first-hand material of construction quality at the collapsed schools, launch preliminary inquiries and prepare for possible investigations into professional crime. It was also reported that safety checks are to be carried out at schools across China after last month's earthquake.

The New York Times reported that "government officials in Beijing and Sichuan have said they are investigating the collapses. In an acknowledgment of the weakness of building codes in the countryside, the National Development and Reform Commission said on May 27 that it had drafted an amendment to improve construction standards for primary and middle schools in rural areas. Experts are reviewing the draft, the commission said." To limit protest, officials push parents to sign a document, which engage them not to hold protest in exchange of money, some refusing to sign have been threatened. The payment amounts vary by school but are approximately the same. In Hanwang, parents were offered a package valued at 8,800 USD in cash and a per-parent pension of nearly 5,600 USD. Furthermore, officials have used other methods of silencing: riot police officers have broken up protests by parents; the authorities have set up cordons around the schools; and officials have ordered the Chinese news media to stop reporting on school collapses.

Besides parents, Liu Shaokun (刘绍坤), a Sichuan school teacher, was detained on June 25, 2008 for "disseminating rumors and destroying social order" about the Sichuan Earthquake. Liu’s family was later told that he was being investigated on suspicion of the crime of inciting subversion. Liu had travelled to the Shifang (什邡) area, taken photos of collapsed school buildings, and put them online. He had also expressed his anger at “the shoddy tofu buildings” in a media interview. He has been ordered to serve one year of re-education through labor (劳动教养) (RTL). Through the attention of the international community, Liu has been released to serve his RTL sentence outside of the labor camp.

Because of the magnitude of the quake, and the media attention on China, foreign nations and organizations immediately responded to the disaster by offering condolences and assistance. On May 14, UNICEF reported that China has formally requested the support of the international community to respond to the needs of affected families.

By May 14, the Ministry of Civil Affairs stated that 10.7 billion yuan (approximately US$1.5 billion) had been donated by the Chinese public. Houston Rockets center Yao Ming, one of the country's most popular sports icons, gave $214,000 and $71,000 to the Red Cross Society of China. The association has also collected a total of $26 million in donations so far. Other multinational firms located in China have also announced large amounts of donations.

The Red Cross Society of China flew 557 tents and 2,500 quilts valued at 788,000 yuan (US$113,000) to Wenchuan County. The Amity Foundation already began relief work in the region and has earmarked US$143,000 for disaster relief. The Sichuan Ministry of Civil Affairs said that they have provided 30,000 tents for those left homeless.

On May 15, United Daily News reported that the top ten richest people in mainland China had donated a little over 32.5 million yuan (US$4.6 million) altogether as of May 13, drawing accusations of selfishness and callousness from Chinese internet users.

Following the earthquake, donations were made by people from all over mainland China, with booths set up in schools, at banks, and around gas stations. People also donated blood, resulting in according to Xinhua long line-ups in most major Chinese cities. Many donated through text messaging on mobile phones to accounts set up by China Unicom and China Mobile By May 16, the Chinese government had allocated a total of $772 million for earthquake relief so far, up sharply from $159 million from May 14. On May 16 China stated it had also received $457 million in donated money and goods for rescue efforts so far, including $83 million from 19 countries and four international organizations.

In 2002, Chinese geologist Chen Xuezhong published a Seismic Risk Analysis study in which he came to the conclusion that beginning with 2003, attention should be paid to the possibility of an earthquake of M ≥7 0 occurring in Sichuan Province based on statistical correlation study. Several other warnings were also published, though not as specific.

In a press conference held by the State Council Information Office the day after the earthquake,, geologist Zhang Xiaodong, deputy director of CEA's Seismic Monitoring Network Center, restated that earthquake prediction was a "World problem", and that no prediction notification was received before the earthquake.

The earthquake has also provided opportunities for researchers to retrofit data in order to model future earthquake predictions. Using data from the Intermagnet Lanzhou (LZH) geomagnetic observatory, geologists Lazo Pekevski from University Sts Cyril and Methodius in Skopje, Macedonia and Strachimir Cht. Mavrodiev from the Bulgarian Academy of Science showed the possibility to predict the time of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake ±1 day.

An article in Science Magazine suggests that the construction and filling of the Zipingpu Dam may have triggered the earthquake. The chief engineer of the Sichuan Geology and Mineral Bureau finds this hypothesis "very likely".

Shortly after the earthquake, claims and debates about pre-existing short-term predictions started to surface in blogs in China and other places, although most have subsequently been removed from sites in mainland China.

On May 15 morning, YZZK reporter telephoned the China Earthquake Administration Chen Jianmin(陈建民), requesting the Office of the Secretary for information regarding the alleged letter from Geng Qingguo. The China Earthquake Administration had never been able to give a satisfied answer to YZZK reporter.

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Yangon

Extent of damage in downtown Yangon during World War II

Yangon (Burmese: ရန်ကုန်မြို့; MLCTS: rankun mrui., pronounced ; also known as Rangoon) is the largest city and a former capital of Burma. It is the capital of Yangon Division. Although the military government has officially relocated the capital to Naypyidaw since March 2006, Yangon, with a population of four million, continues to be the country's largest city and the most important commercial center.

Yangon's infrastructure is relatively undeveloped compared to those of other major cities in Southeast Asia. Yangon has the largest number of colonial buildings in Southeast Asia today. While many high-rise residential and commercial buildings have been constructed or renovated throughout downtown and Greater Yangon in the past two decades, most satellite towns that ring the city continue to be deeply impoverished.

Yangon (ရန်ကုန်) is a combination of the two words yan (ရန်) and koun (ကုန်), which mean "enemies" and "run out of" respectively. It is also translated as "End of Strife". "Rangoon" most likely comes from the British imitation of the pronunciation of "Yangon" in the Rakhine dialect of Burmese.

Yangon was founded as Dagon in the 6th century AD by the Mon, who dominated Lower Burma at that time. Dagon was a small fishing village centered about the Shwedagon Pagoda. In 1755, King Alaungpaya conquered Dagon, and renamed it "Yangon". The British captured Yangon during the First Anglo-Burmese War (1824–26) but returned it to Burmese administration after the war. The city was destroyed by a fire in 1841.

The British Empire seized Yangon and all of Lower Burma in the Second Anglo-Burmese War of 1852, and subsequently transformed Yangon into the commercial and political hub of British Burma. Based on the design by army engineer Lt. Alexander Fraser, the British constructed a new city on a grid plan on delta land, bounded to the east by the Pazundaung Creek and to the south and west by the Yangon River. By the 1890s Yangon's increasing population and commerce gave birth to prosperous residential suburbs to the north of Royal Lake (Kandawgyi) and Inya Lake. The British also established hospitals including Rangoon General Hospital and colleges including Rangoon University.

Colonial Yangon, with its spacious parks and lakes and mix of modern buildings and traditional wooden architecture, was known as "the garden city of the East." By the early 20th century, Yangon had public services and infrastructure on par with London.

Before World War II, about 55% of Yangon's population of 500,000 was Indian or South Asian, and only about a third was Bamar (Burman). Karens, the Chinese, the Anglo-Burmese and others made up the rest.

After World War I, Yangon became the epicenter of Burmese independence movement, with leftist Rangoon University students leading the way. Three nationwide strikes against the British in 1920, 1936 and 1938 all began in Yangon. Yangon was under Japanese occupation (1942–45), and incurred heavy damage during World War II. Yangon became the capital of Union of Burma on 4 January 1948 when the country regained independence from the British.

Since independence, Yangon has expanded outwards. Successive governments have built satellite towns such as Thuwunna and Okkalapa in the 1950s to Dagon Myothit (New Dagon) in the 1990s. Today, Greater Yangon encompasses an area covering nearly 600 km².

During Gen. Ne Win's isolationist rule (1962–88), Yangon's infrastructure deteriorated through poor maintenance and did not keep up with its increasing population. In the 1990s, the current military government's relatively more open market policies attracted domestic and foreign investment, bringing a modicum of modernity to the city's infrastructure. Some inner city residents were forcibly relocated to new satellite towns. Many colonial-period buildings were demolished to make way for high-rise hotels, office buildings, and shopping malls, leading the city government to place about 200 notable colonial-period buildings under a "Heritage List". Major road- and bridge-building programs have resulted in six new bridges, and five new highways linking the city to its industrial hinterland. Still, much of Yangon remains without basic municipal services such as 24-hour electricity and regular rubbish collection.

Yangon has become much more indigenous Burmese in its ethnic make-up since independence. After independence, many South Asians and Anglo-Burmese left. Many more South Asians were forced to leave during the 1960s by Gen. Ne Win's xenophobic government. Nevertheless, sizable South Asian and Chinese communities still exist in Yangon. The Anglo-Burmese have effectively disappeared, having left the country or intermarried with other Burmese groups.

Yangon was the center of major anti-government protests in 1974, 1988 and 2007. The city’s streets saw bloodshed each time as protesters were gunned down by the government. In May 2008, Cyclone Nargis hit Yangon. While the city had few human casualties, three quarters of Yangon's industrial infrastructure was destroyed or damaged, with losses estimated at US$800 million.

In November 2005, the military government designated Naypyidaw, 200 miles (322 km) north, as the new administrative capital, and subsequently moved much of the government to the newly developed city. At any rate, Yangon remains the largest city, and the most important commercial center of Burma.

Yangon is located in Lower Myanmar at the convergence of the Yangon and Bago Rivers about 19 miles (30 km) away from the Gulf of Martaban at 16°48' North, 96°09' East (16.8, 96.15). Its standard time zone is UTC/GMT +6:30 hours.

Yangon has an equatorial monsoon climate under the Köppen climate classification system.

Until the mid 1990s, Yangon remained largely constrained to its traditional peninsula setting between the Bago, Yangon and Hlaing rivers. People moved in, but little of the city moved out. Maps from 1944 show little development north of Inya Lake and areas that are now layered in cement and stacked with houses were then virtual backwaters. Since the late 1980s, however, the city began a rapid spread north to where Yangon International airport now stands. But the result is a stretching tail on the city, with the downtown area well removed from its geographic center. The city's area has steadily increased from 86.2 km² in 1940 to 208.51 km² in 1974, to 346.13 km² in 1985, and to 598.75 km² in 2008.

Downtown Yangon is known for its leafy avenues and fin-de-siècle architecture. The former British colonial capital has the highest number of colonial period buildings in Southeast Asia. Downtown Yangon is still mainly made up of decaying colonial buildings. The former High Court, the former Secretariat complex, the former St. Paul's English High School and the Strand Hotel are excellent examples of the bygone era. Most downtown buildings from this era are four-story mix-use (residential and commercial) buildings with 14-foot ceilings, allowing for the construction of mezzanines. Despite their less-than-perfect conditions, the buildings remain highly sought after and most expensive in the city's property market.

A latter day hallmark of Yangon is the eight-story apartment building. (In Yangon parlance, a building with no elevators (lifts) is called an apartment building and one with elevators is called a condominium. Condos which have to invest in a local power generator to ensure 24-hour electricity for the elevators are beyond the reach of most Yangonites.) Found throughout the city in various forms, eight-story apartment buildings provide relatively inexpensive housing for many Yangonites. The apartments are usually eight stories high (including the ground floor) mainly because the city regulation, until February 2008, required that all buildings higher than 75 feet or eight stories install elevators). The current code calls for elevators in buildings higher than 62 feet or six stories, likely ushering in the era of the six-story apartment building. Although most apartment buildings were built only within the last 20 years, they look much older and rundown due to shoddy construction and lack of proper maintenance.

Unlike other major Asian cities, Yangon does not have any skyscrapers. Aside from a few high-rise hotels and office towers downtown, most high-rise buildings (usually 10 stories and up) are "condos" scattered across prosperous neighborhoods north of downtown such as Bahan, Dagon, Kamayut and Mayangon. The tallest building in Yangon, Pyay Gardens, is a 25-story condo in the city’s north.

Older satellite towns such as Thaketa, North Okkalapa and South Okkalapa are lined mostly with one to two story detached houses with access to the city's electricity grid. Newer satellite towns such as North Dagon and South Dagon are still essentially slums in a grid layout. The satellite towns – old or new – receive little or no municipal services.

The pattern of south to north roads is as follows: one broad 100-foot (30 m) wide broad road, two narrow streets, one mid-size street, two more narrow streets, and then another 100-foot (30 m) wide broad road. This order is repeated from west to east. The narrow streets are numbered; the medium and broad roads are named. For example, the 100-foot (30 m) Lanmadaw Road is followed by 30-foot (9.1 m)-wide 17th and 18th streets then the medium 50-foot (15 m) Sint-Oh-Dan Road, the 30-foot 19th and 20th streets, followed by another 100-foot (30 m) wide Latha Road, followed again by the two numbered small roads 21st and 22nd streets, and so on.

The roads running parallel west to east were the Strand Road, Merchant Road, Maha Bandula (nee Dalhousie) Road, Anawrahta (Fraser) Road, and Bogyoke Aung San (Montgomery) Road.

The largest and best maintained parks in Yangon are located around Shwedagon Pagada. To the southeast of the gilded stupa is the most popular recreational area in the city – Kandawgyi Lake. The 150 acre (60.7-hectare) lake is surrounded by the 110 acre (44.5-hectare) Kandawgyi Nature Park, and the 69.25 acre (28-hectare) Yangon Zoological Gardens, which consists of a zoo, an aquarium and an amusement park. West of the pagoda towards the former Hluttaw (Parliament) complex is the 130 acre (53-hectare) People’s Square and People's Park, (the former parading ground on important national days when Yangon was the capital.) A few miles north of the pagoda lies the 37 acre (15-hectare) Inya Lake Park – a favorite hangout place of Yangon University students, and a well-known place of romance in Burmese popular culture.

Hlawga National Park and Allied War Memorial at the outskirts of the city are popular day-trip destinations with the well-to-do and tourists.

Yangon is administered by the Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC). YCDC also coordinates urban planning. The city is divided into four districts. The districts combined have a total of 33 townships. The mayor of Yangon currently is Brigadier General Aung Thein Lynn. Each township is administered by a committee of township leaders, who make decisions regarding city beautification and infrastructure. Myo-thit (lit. "New Towns", or satellite towns) are not within such jurisdictions.

Yangon is a member of Asian Network of Major Cities 21.

Yangon is Myanmar's main domestic and international hub for air, rail, and ground transportation.

Yangon International Airport, located 12 mi (19 km) from downtown, is the country's main gateway for domestic and international air travel. It has direct flights to regional cities in Asia – mainly, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Kunming, and Singapore. Although domestic airlines offer service to about 20 domestic locations, most flights are to tourist destinations such as Bagan, Mandalay, Heho and Ngapali, and to the capital, Naypyidaw.

Yangon Central Railway Station is the main terminus of Myanmar Railways' 5,068-kilometre (3,149 mi) rail network whose reach covers Upper Myanmar (Naypyidaw, Mandalay, Shwebo), upcountry (Myitkyina), Shan hills (Taunggyi, Lashio) and the Taninthayi coast (Mawlamyaing, Dawei).

Yangon Circular Railway runs a 45.9-kilometre (28.5 mi) 39-station commuter rail network that connects Yangon's satellite towns. The system is heavily utilized by the local populace, selling about 150,000 tickets daily. The popularity of the commuter line has jumped since the government reduced petrol subsidies in August 2007.

The vast majority of Yangonites cannot afford a car and rely on an extensive network of buses to get around. Over 300 public and private bus lines operate about 6300 crowded buses around the city, carrying over 4.4 million passengers a day. All buses and 80% of the taxis in Yangon run on compressed natural gas (CNG), following the 2005 government decree to save money on imported petroleum. Highway buses to other cities depart from Dagon Ayeyar Highway Bus Terminal and Aung Mingala Highway Bus Terminal.

Motor transportation in Yangon is highly expensive for most of its citizens. As the government allows only a few thousand cars to be imported each year in a country with over 50 million people, car prices in Yangon (and in Myanmar) are among the highest in the world. In July 2008, the two most popular cars in Yangon, 1986/87 Nissan Sunny Super Saloon and 1988 Toyota Corolla SE Limited, cost about US$20,000 and US$29,000 respectively. A sports utility vehicle, imported for around US$50,000, goes for US$250,000. Illegally imported unregistered cars are cheaper – typically about half the price of registered cars. Nonetheless, car usage in Yangon is on the rise, and already causes much traffic congestion in highway-less Yangon's streets. As of March 2008, Yangon had over 173,000 registered motor vehicles in addition to an unknown number of unregistered ones.

Since 1970, cars are driven on the right side of the road in Myanmar. However, as the government has not required left hand drive (LHD) cars to accompany the right side road rules, many cars on the road are still right hand drive (RHD) made for driving on the left side. Japanese used cars, which make up most of the country's imports, still arrive with RHD and are never converted to LHD. As a result, Burmese drivers have to rely on their passengers when passing other cars.

Within Yangon, it is illegal to drive trishaws, bicycles, and motorcycles.

With over 4 million people, Yangon is the largest city by far in Myanmar. (All population figures are estimates since no official census has been conducted in Myanmar since 1983.) The city's population grew sharply after 1948 as many people (mainly, the indigenous Burmese) from other parts of the country moved into the newly built satellite towns of North Okkalapa, South Okkalapa, and Thaketa in the 1950s and East Dagon, North Dagon and South Dagon in the 1990s. Immigrants have founded their regional associations (such as Mandalay Association, Mawlamyaing Association, etc.) in Yangon for networking purposes. The government's decision to move the nation's administrative capital to Naypyidaw has drained an unknown number of civil servants away from Yangon.

Yangon is the most ethnically diverse city in the country. While the Indians formed the slight majority prior to World War II, today, the majority of the population is of Bamar (Burman) descent. Large communities of Indians/South Asians and the Chinese still exist especially in the traditional downtown neighborhoods. Intermarriage between ethnic groups--especially between the Bamar and the Chinese, and the Bamar and other indigenous Burmese--is common.

Burmese is the principal language of the city. English is by far the preferred second language of the educated class. In recent years, however, the prospect of overseas job opportunities has enticed some to study other languages: Mandarin Chinese is most popular, followed by Japanese, French, and Korean.

Yangon is the country's hub for the movie, music, advertising, newspaper and book publishing industries. All media is heavily regulated by the military government. (Television broadcasting is off limits to the private sector.) All media content must first be approved by the government's media censor board, Press Scrutiny and Registration Division.

All television channels in the country are broadcast from Yangon. TV Myanmar and Myawaddy are the two main channels, providing Burmese language programming in news and entertainment. Other special interest channels are MWD-1 and MWD-2, MRTV3, the English language channel that targets overseas audiences via satellite and via Internet, MRTV4 with a focus on non-formal education programs and movies, and Movie 5, a Pay-TV channel specializing in broadcasting foreign movies.

Yangon has only two radio stations. Myanmar Radio National Service is the national radio service and broadcasts mostly in Burmese (and in English during specific times.) Pop-culture oriented Yangon City FM specializes in Burmese and English pop music, entertainment programs, live celebrity interviews, etc.

Nearly all print media and industries are based out of Yangon. All three national newspapers – two Burmese language dailies Myanma Alin and Kyemon, and the English language The New Light of Myanmar are published by the government. Semi-governmental The Myanmar Times weekly, published in Burmese and in English, is mainly geared for Yangon's expatriate community. Over twenty special interest journals and magazines covering sports, fashion, finance, crime, literature (but never politics) vie for the readership of the general populace.

Access to foreign media is extremely difficult. Satellite television in Yangon (and in Myanmar) is highly expensive as the government imposes an annual registration fee of one million kyats (US$780). Certain foreign newspapers and periodicals such as the International Herald Tribune and the Straits Times can be found only in a few (mostly downtown) bookstores. Internet access in Yangon, which has the best telecommunication infrastructure in the country, is slow and erratic at best, and the Burmese government implements one of the world's most restrictive regimes of Internet control. International text messaging and voice messaging was permitted only in August 2008.

Common facilities taken for granted elsewhere are luxury prized items in Yangon (and Myanmar). The price of a GSM mobile phone is about K1.1 million (or US$900) in August 2008. In 2007, the country of 55 million had only 775,000 phone lines (including 275,000 mobile phones), and 400,000 computers. Internet penetration rate was only 0.6% of the population in 2005. Even in Yangon, most people cannot afford a computer and have to use the city’s numerous Internet cafes to access a heavily restricted Internet, and a heavily censored local intranet.

The majority of Yangonites live outside downtown, and typically spend most of their day commuting to and from work. For recreation, Yangonites come out at night when the weather is much cooler. Most men of all ages (and some women) spend their time at ubiquitous tea-shops, found in any corner or street of the city. Watching European football (mostly Premier League with occasional La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga) matches while sipping tea is a favorite pastime of many Yangonites, rich and poor alike. The average person stays close to his or her neighborhood haunts. The well-to-do tend to visit shopping malls and parks on weekends. Some leave the city on weekends for Chaungtha and Ngwesaung beach resorts in Ayeyarwady Division.

Yangon is also home to many paya pwes (pagoda festivals), held during dry-season months (November–March). The most famous of all, the Shwedagon Pagoda Festival in March, attracts thousands of pilgrims from around the country.

The city's museums are the domain of tourists and rarely visited by the locals.

Most of Yangon's larger hotels offer some kind of nightlife entertainment, geared towards tourists and the well-to-do Burmese. Some hotels offer traditional Burmese performing arts shows complete with a traditional Burmese orchestra. The pub scene in larger hotels is more or less the same as elsewhere in Asia. Other options include karaoke bars and pub restaurants in Yangon Chinatown.

Yangonites carry stashes of cash to go on shopping. Credit cards are accepted only in a few high end hotels.

As the city has the best sporting facilities in the country, most national-level annual sporting tournaments such as track and field, football, volleyball, tennis and swimming are held in Yangon. The 40,000-seat Aung San Stadium and the 32,000-seat Thuwunna Stadium are the main venues for the highly popular annual State and Division football tournament, and less popular Myanmar League football matches. Despite the enormous popularity of football in Myanmar, the country’s premier football league limps along with little popular interest or commercial success. Most Yangonites prefer watching European football on satellite TV.

Yangon is also home to annual the Myanmar Open golf tournament, and the Myanmar Open tennis tournament. The city hosted 1961 and 1969 South East Asian Games.

Yangon is the country’s main center for trade, industry, real estate, media, entertainment and tourism. According to official government statistics, the city’s nominal GDP is K2.38 trillion (~US$2 billion) in 2007, about 15% of the country’s GDP of US$13.5 billion.

The city is Lower Myanmar’s main trading hub for all kinds of merchandise – from basic food stuffs to used cars although commerce continues to be hampered by the city's severely underdeveloped banking industry and communication infrastructure. Bayinnaung Market is the largest wholesale center in the country for rice, beans and pulses, and other agricultural commodities. Much of the country’s legal imports and exports go through Thilawa port, the largest and busiest port in Myanmar.

Manufacturing accounts for a sizable share of employment. At least 14 light industrial zones ring Yangon, employing thousands of workers. But the industrial zones suffer from both structural problems (e.g., chronic power shortages) and political problems (i.e. Western economic sanctions). While Yangon's 2500 factories alone need about 120 MW of power, the entire city receives only about 250 MW of the 530 MW needed. Chronic power shortages limit the factories' operating hours between 8 am and 6 pm.

Tourism represents a major source of foreign currency for the city although by Southeast Asian standards the actual number of foreign visitors to Yangon has always been quite low (about 250,000 before Saffron Revolution in September 2007). Cyclone Nargis dampened tourism even farther. The 2008 tourist arrivals at Yangon International are down to less than 50% from the previous year. Yangon's international standard hotels, built with foreign investment in the 1990s, still await the influx of tourists for which they were built.

Yangon has the best educational facilities and the highest number of qualified teachers in Myanmar where state spending on education is among the lowest in the world. The disparity in educational opportunities and achievement between rich and poor schools is quite stark even within the city. With little or no state support forthcoming, schools have to rely on forced "donations" and various fees from parents for nearly everything – school maintenance to teachers' salaries, forcing many poor students to drop out.

While many students in poor districts fail to reach high school, a handful of Yangon high schools in wealthier districts like TTC, Dagon 1 and Latha 2 regularly send the bulk of the students entering the most selective universities in the country. The wealthy bypass the Burmese education system altogether, sending their children to private English language instruction schools like ILBC and YIEC for primary and secondary education, and abroad (typically Singapore or Australia) for university education. In 2008, international schools in Yangon cost at least US$8,000 a year.

Yangon is home to over 20 universities and colleges. While Yangon University remains the most well-known--its main campus is a part of popular Burmese culture (literature, music, film, etc.), the nation's oldest university today for the most part is a graduate school, deprived of undergraduate studies. Following the 1988 nationwide uprising, the military government has repeatedly shut down universities, and has dispersed most of undergraduate student population to new universities suburbs such as Dagon University, University of East Yangon and University of West Yangon. Nonetheless many of the country's national and most selective universities remain in Yangon. Students from around the country still come to study in Yangon as some subject matters are offered only at its universities. The city's University of Medicine 1, University of Medicine 2, Yangon Technological University, University of Computer Studies, Yangon and Myanmar Maritime University are the most selective in the country.

The general state of health care in Yangon is poor. The military government spends anywhere from 0.5% to 3% of the country's GDP on health care, consistently ranking among the lowest in the world. Although health care is nominally free, in reality, patients have to pay for medicine and treatment, even in public clinics and hospitals. Public hospitals including the flagship Yangon General Hospital lack many of the basic facilities and equipment.

To be sure, wealthier Yangonites still have access to country's best medical facilities and internationally qualified physicians and surgeons in all branches of medicine. (As many Burmese physicians have emigrated abroad, only do Yangon and Mandalay have any sizable number of physicians left.) The well-to-do go to private clinics or hospitals like Pun Hlaing International Hospital and Bahosi Medical Clinic. A routine ten-day private hospital stay reportedly costs about K2.5 million (US$2300). The rich and top military brass routinely go abroad (usually Bangkok or Singapore) for treatment.

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Bogale

The Bogalay Township (often spelled Bogale or Bogala) is one of five townships that are a part of the Pyapon District within the Ayeyarwady Division in Myanmar or Burma. The Bogalay Township has an estimated population of 400,000 people, according to UNICEF (2003). The capital of the township is downtown Bogalay. The Bogalay Township is located on the southwestern part of Myanmar/Burma on the mainland section of the country. Bogalay can be reached by both water transportation and by land.

The history of the Bogalay Township must begin with its first known inhabitants. The Mons are believed to have first inhabited the region in 3000 BC. Although most of the Mons records and writings have been destroyed through war or simply over time, spoken Burmese tradition states that the Mons began instituting Buddhist beliefs into their culture around 300 BC. (myanmartravelinformation.com) By the 9th century the Mons are believed to have most of southern present day Myanmar. The Mons had a hybrid culture that combined Indian and Mon culture.

After briefly losing power in the region to the Bagan Kingdom, the Mons regained control of the southern region of Myanmar in 1472 under King Dhammazedi. During King Dhammazedi 20 year reign from 1472-1492 the area currently encompassed by the Bogalay Township experienced a time of rapid economic growth and increase in cultural identity, with roots in Theravada Buddhism. The region became a key post in commerce of Southeast Asia. By 1759 the Mons had been stripped of their power in southern Myanmar and the Konbaung Dynasty had begun. The leader responsible for taking control of southern Myanmar and unifying the north and the south was Alaungpaya. Under the Konbaung Dynasty the capital of Myanmar was established at Rangoon. The Konbaung Dynasty was a time of constant warfare, typically of aggression.

By the turn of the 19th century, Britain had gained complete control over all of Burma via the three Anglo-Burmese Wars. Britain’s occupation of Burma drastically changed the culture of southern Burma (Bogalay Township Region). An infiltration of Christianity began to take place in southern Burmese regions. In the early 1900s, Burmese citizens of the south began protesting for their freedom from Britain. By 1923, peaceful protests against the British resulted in elections of a Burmese legislator with limited power. Student movements, aimed at expediting the process of freeing Burmese from British/Indian rule, were organized and help facilitate the peasant rebellion in 1930. In 1937 Britain finally agreed to separate Burma from India and allowed Burma to elect a full legislative branch with complete power. In 1962, the current military regime that rules Myanmar today took control of the government. The military government got rid of the democratic elections and served as a dictatorship over its citizens. In 1992 the military Junta decided it would return democratic elections to the populace. Aung San Suu Kyi won the 1992 national election by a landslide victory. However, the military Junta refused to give up its power and put Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest, where she remains today. On May 2, 2008 Cyclone Nargis reached the southern part of Myanmar. The cyclone resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands of Burmese citizens and even more families being displaced from their homes. The current military Junta’s response or lack of response to the crisis has made light of the brutality of the regime abroad.

The Bogalay Township has a very rich and diverse culture due to its high numbers of ethnic groups. Traditionally, the “naming system” in this region, as well as Myanmar as a whole, is vastly different from the naming system that exists in western countries. The concept of a “family name” does not exist in the Burmese culture. A person is usually addressed according to his age. For older people, their names are pre-fixed with U (pronounced Oo) and Daw and are the equivalents of Mr. and Ms. respectively. A young adult is addressed by the Honorifics Ko (for males) and Ma (for females). A child is referred to as Maung and Ma for males and females respectively. (myanmartravelinformation.com) Also a child’s name often is decided by the day in which he or she is born. Each day of the week has a list of traditional names that are attached to it. Furthering the differences between the naming system in the Bogalay Township and the western world is the fact that women keep their names after marriage in Burma. This absence of a family name in the region makes tracing one’s heritage back very difficult, if not impossible.

The primary religion of this region, as well as Burma as a hole, is Buddhism. More specifically, Theravada Buddhism is widespread throughout the region. Burmese of the Bogalay Township believe in reincarnation. This meaning that if an individual commits too many sins throughout his or her lifetime they will be reincarnated into a lower life form. Burmese Buddhists’ ultimate goal is to live a near sin-less life so that a person can reach the highest form of reincarnation, which is Nirvana. Christians and Muslims exist as small minorities within the Bogalay Township. For the most part, these Christians and Muslims exist within the small ethnic minority villages.

The people of the Bogalay Township celebrate some of the same ceremonies that are celebrated in the western world. A man and a woman’s marriage ceremony and marriage process is surprisingly quite comparable to the traditions in the US. Friends of the bride and groom will traditionally present gifts to both people prior to the wedding ceremony. Like in the United States, in order to get married a couple can have a large celebration or can go to the local government building and sign the paper work over. When a loved one is sick and near death it is typical of Burmese to bring gifts such as fruits or canned cereals to the ill person. Unfortunately, the hospitals in the Bogalay Township are not trusted by many; thus ill persons often die from simple illnesses that could be treated with basic antibiotics. When a loved one passes away the family has the choice of burial or cremation. A funeral typically will be held within 3-5 days of the passing away. Another ceremony that is celebrated widely among the Bogalay Township populace is the Water Festival (Thingyan). The people go to the streets to do traditional dances and arts for three days in order to usher in the New Year in the Myanmar calendar. The town’s youth traditionally will throw water on people from numerous stages that have been set up on the streets to signify the cleansing of one’s sins or wrong doings away.

The Bogalay Township region of Myanmar/Burma is full of natural resources that drive their economy. The products that are made from the natural resources are taxed harshly by the oppressive military Junta. The people of the Bogalay Township see little to no benefit of the taxation the government places on their products and commerce. Outside of the main city limits, roads are sketchy at best and people are practically cut off from the man Bogalay city.

Because of the Bogalay Township’s ideal location on the base of the delta, farming and agriculture are huge industries in the region. The Bogalay Township region is one of the largest producers of rice in all of Myanmar. The rice is grown during two crop seasons. The first season, which typically yields less rice than the second season, occurs between June and September-December during the rainy season. The second growing season is actually shorter but yields a greater amount of rice. This season goes from March-June. The rice is typically processed in factories in downtown Bogalay. The largest of these factories employs 2,500 workers in downtown Bogalay. This rice is often sold in local markets as a vital source of food for villagers. The national government, military Junta, heavily tax the rice production and profits in the region. This is a key source of revenue for the military governmental regime.

In addition to the region’s geographically friendly atmosphere towards agriculture, the Bogalay Township is also ideal for fishing in certain times of the year. Fish can be caught in large amounts and sold in the markets as a supplement to the frequent purchases of rice. The government also harshly taxes the fishing industry. Forestry Another key Industry in the Bogalay Township region is forestry. Lumber is cut down in the region and processed in factories. The lumber is typically exported to foreign countries within Southeast Asia or sent to the northern, less wooded areas of Myanmar. Environmentalists abroad have been critical of the rate in which trees have been cut down in the region.

The current political situation within the Bogalay Township is typical of the rest of Myanmar/Burma. The people within the Bogalay Township suffer from the oppression of the military Junta. The military Junta came to power in Myanmar in 1962. The Junta held “free democratic elections” in 1992 for the first time in three decades. Aung San Suu Kyi won the election by a landslide, yet the military refused to give up power. Than Shwe has headed the cruel military Junta in Myanmar since 1992. Today, the people of the Bogalay Township live in constant fear of speaking out against the Junta. The citizens fear being thrown in jail without any sort of legitimate due process. It is not uncommon for a journalist, blogger, or just outspoken man or woman to be thrown in jail for as long as thirty years for speaking out against the regime. However, for the most part, the people living in the more urban, developed areas of the Bogalay Township are not oppressed nearly as much as their counterparts in the small villages on the outskirts of the Bogalay Township. In these small villages where large amounts of ethnic minorities live, there is widespread, cruel ethnic cleansing being conducted by the military Junta. In recent years/months the atrocities that the Junta are performing in this Bogalay Township region have been a hot topic among international organizations and human rights activists.

The Nargis Cyclone was the worst natural disaster ever recorded to hit Burma. The Bogalay Township region in southern Myanmar was one of the worst affected areas of the Nargis Cyclone that hit the area May 2, 2008. In downtown Bogalay, 90% of the homes are believed to have been destroyed by the tropical storm. Government officials estimate that over 10,000 people were left dead in the Bogalay Township region alone after the initial storm. Without proper aid relief and reconstruction of the region, this number could continue to rise dramatically.

In addition to the hardships the people of the Bogalay Township are facing amidst the Nargis Cyclone, their very own government has done a poor job of bringing aid to the region. As soon as news of the devastation in southern Burma hit foreign countries, aid was offered from countless countries and NGO’s alike. Some countries that offered aid were the United States, Canada, Great Britain, France, and Thailand. However, the military Junta in Burma initially refused to allow foreign aid in. The Junta said they would accept the aid and money but refused any foreign man power. This was met with widespread anger and displeasure within the country as well as abroad. Currently the case of Burma is being brought up to the United Nations. The UN is exploring potential human rights violations within the Burmese regions hardly hit by the Nargis Cyclone, such as the Bogalay Township.

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Source : Wikipedia