5 Myanmar regions disaster zones, 4 dead after cyclone

Five regions in Myanmar were declared disaster zones Sunday after Tropical Cyclone Nargis smashed hundreds of houses, knocked out electricity and left at least four people dead.

5 Myanmar regions disaster zones, 4 dead after cyclone
The military run Myaddy television station said Yangon, Irrawaddy, Bago, Karen and Mon states were all heavily damaged by Saturday's cyclone, which packed winds of up to 120 mph.

Witnesses in Yangon said hundreds of houses had roofs blown off and the storm cut electricity, while the state-owned newspaper New Light of Myanmar reported Sunday that the international airport in Yangon remains shut down.

Domestic flights have been diverted to the airport in Mandalay, it said.

Three people were killed Friday when their boat capsized as they crossed a Yangon canal, witnesses said, and a fourth person died Saturday after a tree fell on his house.

"It's a bad situation. Almost all the houses are smashed. People are in a terrible situation," said a United Nations official in Yangon, who requested anonymity because she was not authorized to speak to a reporter.

"All the roads are blocked. There is no water. There is no electricity," she said.

Casualties had been expected after Nargis hit Myanmar's commercial capital at about 5 a.m. local time Saturday.

Neither the U.N. nor the government has provided a death toll or damage assessment, though a more detail picture is expected to emerge after officials reach remote areas in the coming days.

Yangon residents ventured out Sunday to buy construction materials to repair their homes. Some people interviewed expressed anger that the military led government had done little so far to help with the cleanup.

"Where are all those uniformed people who are always ready to beat civilians?" said one man, who refused to be identified for fear of retribution. "They should come out in full force and help clean up the areas and restore electricity."

The cyclone came at a delicate time for Myanmar, which is scheduled to hold a referendum May 10 on the country's military backed draft constitution.

A military managed national convention was held intermittently for 14 years to lay down guidelines for the country's new constitution. The junta's hand-picked delegates included those representing workers.

The new constitution is supposed to be followed in 2010 by a general election. Both votes are elements of a "roadmap to democracy" drawn up by the junta, which has been in power for two decades.

Opposition parties have criticized the draft constitution as designed to cement military power and have urged citizens to vote no.

Agencies

Last Mod: 04 Mayıs 2008, 14:42
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