Another powerful storm headed toward Myanmar’s cyclone-devastated delta yesterday, where so little aid has arrived that the UN warned of a “second wave of deaths” among more than 1.5 million survivors.
The Hawaii-based Joint Typhoon Warning Center, a US government agency that contributes data to the UN, said there was a good chance that “a significant tropical cyclone” would form within the next 24 hours and head across the Irrawaddy delta area.
The delta was pulverized by Cyclone Nargis on May 2 and May 3, leaving at least 34,273 dead and 27,838 missing, government figures show.
The UN says the death toll could exceed 100,000. An estimated 1.5 million to 2 million survivors are in need of emergency aid, but UN agencies and other voluntary groups have been able to reach only 270,000 people so far.
“They are already weak,” said Amanda Pitt, a spokeswoman for the UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs.
A new storm will impact on “people’s ability to survive and cope with what happened to them ... This is terrible,” she said.
Bottlenecks, poor logistics, limited infrastructure and the military government’s refusal to allow foreign aid workers have left most of the survivors living in miserable conditions without food or clean water.
The news of a second cyclone was not broadcast by Myanmar’s state-controlled media. But Yangon residents picked up the news on foreign broadcasts and on the Internet.
Johnny Chan (陳仲良), a tropical cyclone expert with City University of Hong Kong, said the new cyclone would not be as severe as Nargis.
“There will be a lot of rain, but the winds will not be as strong,” he said.
Soldiers have barred foreign aid workers from reaching the hardest-hit Irrawaddy delta, but the junta gave access to an International Red Cross representative who returned to Yangon on Tuesday.
Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej flew into Yangon yesterday to try to persuade the junta to grant visas to foreign disaster experts.
Joining other individual and institutional donors around the world, Hollywood stars have donated US$250,000 for survivors through Save the Children. The global aid agency said Not On Our Watch, a nonprofit group founded by actors George Clooney, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt and others, has also pledged more donations over a one-year period.