Local residents react to Myanmar cyclone

May 5, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
More than 22,000 people are feared dead from a monstrous cyclone that struck Asia. The storm hit Myanmar, also known as Burma, on Saturday.

Bay Area Burmese activists fear many of the people injured or displaced will not get the help they need.

The government there has kept Myanmar very isolated from the rest of the world. So there is fear that they may say no to some countries or organizations that want to help.

About 22,000 people are believed dead, making this the biggest natural disaster in Asia since the December 2004 tsunami where 181,000 people were killed.

Hundreds of thousands of people in the south west part of Myanmar are homeless with little or no food and water.

Pictures taken just a few weeks ago show the lush vegetation, and now the same area after the cyclone hit is covered by water.

Jean Gale is a Burmese activists living in the Bay Area.

"The Internet is cut off and we've been trying to call friends and relatives for the past three days and still not accessible," said Gale.

The government there feared 1,000 had died, although the number may be even greater.

In the past the government of Myanmar has restricted the activities of many foreign groups.

So in the Bay Area, activists fear help won't get to those who need it the most.

"They should accept international assistance as much as they can," said Burmese activist Ted Chu.

"What if they don't?" asked ABC7's Lyanne Melendez.

"I'm pretty concerned about that," said Chu.

The U.S Embassy there is already providing some relief.

"The earliest part of the relief is money that the embassy already has it's already there that we can distribute to other NGOs the World Food Program, other groups that are on the ground," said First Lady Laura Bush.

Myanmar, formerly known as Burma has been under military rule since 1965. Last September, dozens of Buddhist monks were reportedly killed when their protests brought a government crackdown.

Ashin Nanika is a Buddhist monk who lives in a monastery in Fremont.

"The government always very fast to do bad things. But not good things," said Nanika.

He criticizes the government for being very fast at doing bad things, but not fast at doing good things.

The Burmese community in the Bay Area is estimated at between 20 and 30,000 people. They are now trying to figure out how to send help.


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