News / Asia

Distrust Hinders Burma Cyclone Evacuation Effort

Internally displaced Rohingya people load rickshaws with children and belongings to leave their camp in Sittwe, northwestern Rakhine State, Burma, May 16, 2013.
Internally displaced Rohingya people load rickshaws with children and belongings to leave their camp in Sittwe, northwestern Rakhine State, Burma, May 16, 2013.
Daniel Schearf
Authorities in Bangladesh and Burma are working to quickly move to safety hundreds of thousands of people still at risk from cyclone Mahasen.  The tropical storm hit Bangladesh and is expected to make landfall as early as Friday in western Rakhine state in Burma, where some people displaced from last year's sectarian violence have been reluctant to move. 

Hundreds of thousands of people were ordered to evacuate parts of southern Bangladesh as the cyclone brought heavy winds and rains to flood the area.

Although the storm weakened before coming ashore in Bangladesh, Burma is bracing for an expected landfall Friday in western Rakhine state where attention is focused on tens of thousands of people living in temporary relief camps.

Sectarian violence last year displaced 140,000 people into the camps, the vast majority of them ethnic Rohingya Muslims.

The United Nations says about 70,000 are especially at risk, living in low-lying areas or in makeshift shelters and tents.

  • A vehicle moves internally displaced Rohingya to a safer place ahead of Cyclone Mahasen at a camp outside of Sittwe, Burma, May 16, 2013.
  • Internally displaced Rohingyas wait on a truck to leave their camp Sittwe, Burma, May 16, 2013.
  • Internally displaced Rohingya people take shelter in a building ahead of the arrival of Cyclone Mahasen, in Sittwe, northwestern Rakhine State, Burma, May 15, 2013.
  • Soldiers wait to help people move to safe location at a Rohingya internally displaced person camp outside of Sittwe, Burma, May 15, 2013.
  • An internally displaced Rohingya woman walks carrying a sibling in a makeshift camp in Sittwe, Burma, May 14, 2013.
  • Internally displaced Rohingya boys shiver in rain in a makeshift camp for Rohingya people in Sittwe, Burma, May 14, 2013.
  • Novice Buddhist monks play in the sea in Sittwe, Burma ahead of the arrival of Cyclone Mahasen, May 14, 2013.
  • Thandawli villagers stand by the bank of a river in a camp for Rohingya internally displaced persons outside Sittwe, Burma, May 14, 2013.
  • A Rakhine Buddhist woman and her child take in a monastery because of the arrival of the Cyclone Mahasen, Sittwe, Burma, May 14, 2013.
  • Lightning is seen over the Sule pagoda and the former city hall of Rangoon, Burma, May 13, 2013.

Authorities and international aid groups are relocating the IDPs to safer shelters.

Vivian Tan, the regional spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, said at least 35,000 people were moved as of Wednesday but some were resisting.

"Some did not like the relocation sites designated by the government.  Some were afraid that they would lose their spots in the existing IDP camps," Tan explained.  "Some were worried they may be asked to go back to their villages, that they fled last year, after the storm.  So, there's a number of concerns and we're trying to get as much reassurances from the government that people will be allowed to go back to the IDP camps after the storm passes."

There is little trust between the Rohingya and authorities after clashes last year with ethnic Rakhine Buddhists left 200 dead and thousands of homes burned to the ground.

The Rohingya bore the brunt of the violence and have been living in segregated camps ever since.  Human Rights Watch accused authorities of fomenting ethnic cleansing, a charge they deny.

Burma does not recognize the Rohingya as citizens or an ethnic group and considers them illegal migrants from Bangladesh, despite many having lived in Burma for generations.

Nonetheless, President's Office Minister Aung Min told reporters in Rangoon Wednesday all would receive help with no discrimination between Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya.

He said they cannot stop disaster if the cyclone hits.  But, it is their duty to do as much as possible to prevent damage and reduce the death toll.  He said preparation work will be done without distinguishing race and religion.  He added that all their actions will be transparent and they will also receive advice from international organizations.

Aung Min said international humanitarian organizations that have been helping at IDP camps are ready to provide cyclone aid as needed.

The government's response is in stark contrast with the previous military government's handling of the last cyclone in 2008.

Cyclone Nargis swept across the Irrawaddy delta, southwest of Rangoon, killing at least 130,000 people.  Authorities made few preparations and initially refused outside help, which critics say contributed to the death toll.

International aid and rights groups have for months been warning the camps in Rakhine state were not built to deal with storms that come during the rainy season.

The UN's Tan acknowledges Burmese authorities could have started evacuations sooner and worked faster.  But, she said the change in attitude to foreign help is significant and they are working well with international organizations, including the United Nations.

"The international community and humanitarian agencies are doing whatever we can at the moment.  But, we certainly need to stay engaged because this is just the beginning of several months of rains that will hit the region," Tan noted. "So, things aren't going to get better.  We need to stay engaged to make sure that shelters are built, that people are not forgotten once this cyclone passes."

Since last year's unrest, international aid groups in Rakhine say Buddhist extremists have prevented access to some camps and threatened their staff.

Despite concerns about helping relocate Rohingya ahead of the cyclone, Tan said they have not heard of any problems for aid groups.

The UNHCR has tents and plastic sheets in Rakhine and will continue building shelters in safer locations after the storm clears.  

Tan said the UN's World Food Program has about one month's supply of food in the area and Burma's Ministry of Health has prepositioned staff and medicine, though she could not say if their numbers were adequate.

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: بابل from: http://www.babilnet.net/v
May 16, 2013 9:14 AM
Hurricanes cause a lot of destruction and the weather conditions and natural causes related to nature

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs