( – promoted by buhdydharma )
The magnitude of this disaster is overwhelming. I cannot even begin to imagine the suffering that is taking place as I type this.
NPR Correspondent Andrea Hsu reporting from Beichuan County, China: http://www.npr.org/blogs/chengdu/
This video was shot as the quake was happening:
NPR’s correspondents on the ground in China have been providing constant news updates from yesterday’s earthquake, including stories from local people affected by this disaster. This is one such story:
We also spoke to 36-year-old Zhao Rong, who had walked 30 kilometers with four children — two of them hers, two others the children of a relative and a friend. She comes from the town of Chen Jiaba in Beichuan County, where she said everything was toppled. She believes that as many as one third of the 15,000 residents in her town may have perished. She said they had moved into the town so that their children could have a better education, and now, they’ve lost everything. She told us, we don’t know where we’re going, we’ll just try to find a place to stop … at this point, we’re just trying to survive.
Although it appears from NPR’s reporting that local officials in Beichuan County may be underestimating the amount of damage there, China’s national government is engaged in a full-scale rescue operation:
As a steady rain fell throughout the day, emergency workers struggled to pull survivors and bodies from flattened buildings in the few towns accessible to heavy rescue machinery.
More than 1,300 soldiers and medics spent the day clambering over landslides and the remnants of a mountain highway to reach Wenchuan, a city of 100,000 and the epicenter of the quake. The quake struck on Monday afternoon with a preliminary magnitude of 7.9.
The authorities have mobilized 50,000 soldiers to help with the rescue efforts, and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao flew to Sichuan hours after the earthquake struck to direct the disaster response.
The New York Times reports that the US, Japan and the European Union, among other nations, have extended offers of help.
Meanwhile, in neighboring Myanmar, the situation worsens and one has to ask aloud, can the military junta ruling this country sink any lower?
Apparently, and tragically, the answer to that question is “yes”.
The Associated Press reports that the military regime is hoarding high quality foreign aid and doling out poor quality rice – potentially ruined by the storm – to its starving citizens:
A longtime foreign resident in Yangon told the AP in Bangkok that angry government officials have complained to him about the misappropriation of the aid by the military.
He said the officials told him that quantities of the high-energy biscuits rushed into Myanmar by the WFP on its first flights were sent to a military warehouse.
They were exchanged by what the officials said were “tasteless and low quality” biscuits produced by the Industry Ministry to be handed out to cyclone victims, the foreign resident said.
He spoke on condition of anonymity because revealing his identity would jeopardize his safety.
He said it was not known what’s happening to the high quality food – whether it is sold on the black market or consumed by the military.
The government did not immediately respond to requests for comment. But the claim appeared to be backed up on the ground.
CARE Australia’s country director in Myanmar, Brian Agland, said members of his local staff brought back some of the rotting rice that’s being distributed in the delta.
“I have a small sample in my pocket, and it’s some of the poorest quality rice we’ve seen,” he said. “It’s affected by salt water and it’s very old.”
Although the military is allowing the US to fly relief supplies directly into Myanmar, the number of flights are limited and no additional US personnel are allowed inside the country.
Canada’s Globe And Mail reports on the delays experienced by the UN and other relief agencies in convincing the military junta to issue visas to additional aid workers. The situation is so dire that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon is attempting to make contact directly with Than Shwe, head of Myanmar’s military regime, but so far he has been unsuccessful:
“I want to register my deep concern and immense frustration on the unacceptably slow response to this grave humanitarian crisis,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said yesterday.
He said he has tried repeatedly to talk to Myanmar’s military strongman, Than Shwe, but has been unable to reach him.
“We are at a critical point,” he said. “Unless more aid gets into the country very quickly, we face an outbreak of infectious diseases that could dwarf today’s crisis. I therefore call, in the most strenuous terms, on the government of Myanmar to put its people’s lives first. It must do all that it can to prevent this disaster from becoming even more serious.”
Please keep the people of China and Burma in your thoughts, prayers and meditations.