Weak planning and slow decision making

08 May 2008

Weather Forecast from the Burmese official newspaper (Photo
taken from
Khin Min Zaw's blog
)



The above warning on April 29 in the state-owned newspaper said the storm would not be devastating and the wind would be only 40-45 miles per hour.

Mungpi from Mizzima reported:

Though Burma's Meteorology and Hydrology department posted a warning on its official website on April 27, the information was not widely disseminated. The department said that a cyclone was forming in the Bay of Bengal and was heading towards Burma.

State-run media did not issue a cyclone alert until the afternoon of Friday, May 2. The storm first struck the Irrawaddy Delta in late afternoon Friday and swept into Rangoon early Saturday.

Many Rangoon residents said they missed the announcement, broadcast on state-run TV and radio, which usually runs state propaganda.

If Rangoon residents missed the announcement, the worst hit delta residents would not even get wind of it. Here is Mungpi's report again:

"Though my daughters said they knew about the announcement, I was not aware of the cyclone because I am not interested in watching TV, and there was no public announcement in the locality," said a Rangoon resident whose house was smashed by a falling tree.

A leading Thai meteorological expert said the failure to issue a timely warning may have costs thousands of innocent lives.

Dr. Smith Dharmasaroja, chairman of Thailand's National Disaster Warning Centre, said the Burmese government's response was insufficient.

"The government must issue an early warning and send teams to evacuate villagers in the disaster-prone zones as a preparation for the cyclone," Dr. Smith told Mizzima.

Dr. Smith famously predicted that a tsunami would strike Thailand long before the deadly Indian Ocean waves of December 2004, but was widely ignored.

While it is important for the government to issue an announcement, the warnings must be properly disseminated, Dr. Smith said. The authorities must also take precautionary steps, including relocating villagers in the path of the predicted cyclone to higher ground.

The Burmese officials ignored warnings from Indian Meteorology Department and Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC) (McCartan, 2008). On a side note, Thai government also ignores Tsunami warning in 2004. (This shows how ASEAN governments do not give planning and decision-making powers to the officials in the field and do not care about the poor and weak).

As of the latest situations, Burmese government is very slow in issuing visas for relief workers (Denby, 2008). They are working at a snail space while people will be left to struggle on their own in the delta areas in Burma.

Holmes [the emergency relief coordinator of the United Nations and under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs] said that during discussions with Burmese officials, the explanation given for the delay in issuing visas was that it was a question that needed to be decided by higher authorities. (Jha, 2008)

I am sure the officials are covering their asses waiting for the decisions from "higher authorities" at the expense of suffering victims who need help right now.

Source:
Denby, K. (2008, May 7). Burma junta drags its feet over visas for aid workers as cyclone victims suffer. The Times Online. Retrieved May 8, 2008 from http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article3887278.ece
Jha, L.K. (2008, May 8). UN Frustrated over Visa, Custom Delays The Irrawaddy. Retrieved May 8, 2008 from http://www.irrawaddy.org/article.php?art_id=11837
McCartan, B. (2008, May 7). Myanmar courts political disaster The Asia Times Online. Retrieved May 8, 2008 from http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Southeast_Asia/JE08Ae01.html
Mungpi. (2008, May 6). Burma knew of cyclone nearly a week before it hit. The Mizzima. Retrieved May 7, 2008 from http://www.mizzima.com/nargis-impact/18-nargis-impact/445--burma-knew-of-cyclone-nearly-a-week-before-it-hit


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