Monday, March 28, 2011

Burma shaken by back-to-back natural disasters- thousands now feared dead

March 29, 2011 – BURMA (Myanmar) – Of the 7,000 fishermen that were swept into the Andaman Sea during a tropical storm on March 14-16, a total of 3,374 have now been rescued, according to a source close to the Myanmar Marine Fishing Association (MMFA). The remaining 3,700 are still missing. Nearly two weeks since 400 fishing vessels were overturned or destroyed in 70mph winds, little hope remains of anyone else surviving. “There are currently about 400 fishing vessels at sea trying to rescue survivors of the storm,” said the source. “So far, more than 3,700 fishermen have been rescued and brought to Rangoon.” Burma’s state media reported on March 22 that naval ships, large fishing vessels and local fishing boats had jointly rescued 3,374 fishermen. While 3,152 have already gone home, 222 fishermen remain under government care, the report said, adding that the rescued fishermen had been provided medicine, clothes and food. The tropical storm occurred off the Irrawaddy delta coast close to areas such as Bogalay and Laputta which were severely hit by Cyclone Nargis in May 2008. “We already listed 7,000 people as missing at sea along with their vessels,” said an official from the Botahtaung Thanlyin naval compound. “But that figure does not include those people living in littoral areas. So the number of dead may be higher.” He and other navy officers confirmed that more than 200 bodies had already been recovered from the sea. “The majority of boats that were overturned were carrying local fishermen,” said the MMFA source. “Fishing vessels from Rangoon are generally larger, stronger and better equipped to resist the storm.” Naval sources have estimated that the majority of missing fishermen are from Irrawaddy Division and Mon State.
Meanwhile the death toll from the March 24, 2011 6.8 earthquake has risen to 150 but sources say the government may be hiding the actual number of fatalities from the Western press so the true account of the devastation from the quake may never be fully known.

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