Sunday, May 3, 2009

Survivors remember Cyclone Nargis

From correspondents in THA KYAR HIN O, Burma

(News.Com-Agence France-Presse)- EMOTIONAL survivors gathered in Burma to remember the 138,000 people left dead or missing by Cyclone Nargis, despite authorities largely ignoring the storm's first anniversary.

No official ceremonies were planned and state media made no mention of the deadly storm which lay waste to large swathes of the country on May 2-3 last year, and drew worldwide criticism for Burma's military rulers.

Only the Burma language daily newspaper Myanma (Myanma) Ahlin showed any reference to the 2.4 million people affected by the cyclone, with photographs of the new houses authorities have built for some of the survivors. (???)

Cyclone Nargis hit Burma on May 2 and 3 with wind speeds reaching 240 kilometres an hour and storm surges up to four metres high.

Thousands of homes were swept away, rice fields were flooded with saltwater and schools and hospitals were ravaged in the storm.

A year later aid agencies say half a million people remain without adequate homes, while at least 250,000 people will require food handouts until the end of 2009 at the earliest.

But many survivors were more concerned with the dead as they marked the cyclone's anniversary Sunday, with those who could afford to paying about $A140 dollars in donations for a monk-led ceremony at home.

Win Khaing, 22, from Tha Kyar Hin O, hosted his own family memorial before visiting the unveiling a new cyclone shelter in his village.

"We did a memorial for my mum and two-year-old niece by donating to Buddhist monks this morning. I think they are in peace now,'' he said.

Burma's military government faced international criticism for its immediate response to the storm, accused of stymieing emergency aid and initially refusing to grant access to humanitarian workers and supplies.

In late May UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon brokered a deal that allowed a group of officials from the UN, Burma's government and regional bloc ASEAN to coordinate aid deliveries to the delta.

But long-term shelter, cash to replenish lost assets and further food supplies are all still critically needed, aid workers said, as they sought

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