COMMENTS: Storm Surge Floods Rice Bowl

Estimates of the death toll from Cyclone Nargis climb upwards: between 4,000 and 10,000 yesterday; now 22,500 known dead and 41,000 missing. Again none of the networks have been permitted to have their reporters enter Myanmar: ABC's Jim Sciutto and NBC's Ian Williams filed from Bangkok; CBS had Barry Petersen narrate the videotape from his base in Tokyo. "The Irrawaddy Delta was once known as the rice bowl of Asia; thousands of square miles are now under water," NBC's Williams lamented. The cyclone pushed in a twelve-foot storm surge that inundated the low-lying region. "With virtually no communications, many of the neediest victims are now cut off from the rest of the world," worried ABC's Sciutto.

Disaster relief is stalled. "There are scores of aid groups waiting to get in, groups like World Vision, CARE and Save the Children, whose efforts will be coordinated by the United Nations," ABC's Dan Harris pointed out from New York. "What everyone is waiting for now is for Myanmar's repressive, reclusive government to accept help." CBS' Petersen sarcastically noted that aid distribution was not at the top of the junta's agenda: the generals "are now using the worst disaster in this country's history as a flash-popping, camera-clicking photo-op of caring," he scoffed. As for the Burmese, "Buddhists here believe natural disasters are punishments for bad leaders."


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