What is a cyclone? It’s a hurricane, according to Wikipedia. According to the BBC, state media in Myanmar (Burma) are now reporting that the death toll has exceeded 22,000, a far cry from the 4,000 deaths that were claimed in the print edition of today’s New York Times. With another 41,000 missing, it’s certain that the body count will keep rising.
This Al-Jazeera English report is pretty interesting:
The cyclone could be a paradigm-changing event for Myanmar, once of the world’s most closed and repressive regimes, as the ruling junta has apparently decided to accept international assistance. On the other hand, the Al-Jazeera report notes that the junta has not given the green light to non-governmental organizations, and that it plans to go ahead with a May 10 referendum aimed at strengthening its repressive grip.
The Democratic Voice of Burma (via Global Voices Online) says that the authorities have done little to help beleaguered storm victims. One anonymous resident of Rangoon, the capital, is quoted as saying:
We don’t know where they [the authorities] are, which corners they have gone to. It is not good to talk about it. They only know how to beat up people. In this kind of situation, we don’t know where they are. These people only know how to beat up people.
Danny Schechter hails Laura Bush for speaking out, and adds: “I spoke with a veteran UN Correspondent last night who said that the infrastructure in Burma is in such poor shape [that] he doubted that they had the capacity to warn the public.”