This is the personal blog of London photographer, backpacker, traveller Mark Coughlan. The intention of the blog is communicate updates from my personal website and on my photography projects and travels both in the UK and worldwide. When backpacking the obscure places on earth, this blog will be continually updated with images and thoughts from the road. [Read more about me]

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Has anyone got a Nissan Micra for sale?

Will we make it? Well judging by yesterdays disasters we're not too sure. After only 30 miles into the journey home I was parked up on the hard shoulder just short of Swindon awaiting the RAC rescue van to arrive. Heading to Mongolia we expect a fair few punctures en-route. Especially in the pot holed roads of Kazakhstan, but not on the bloody M4 motorway!

Anyway that was the least of the problem. After the RAC chappy had repaired the puncture(and telling me how his Dad pulled a lap dancer the night before while his Mum was on holiday. It must be a Swindon Yokel thing) the car then wouldn't start up, with the battery dead. Out come the jump leads and eventually I was off. However with the battery as good as knackered, the windscreen wipers stopped working, which didn't help in the rain, then the indicators weren't working, and finally to top it off I had to drive the last hour getting flashed by every oncoming car as the lights didn't work!The good news is that on the motorway the car got up to a whopping 65mph, and in doing so over taking (with no indicators) two horse boxes!

The day itself was good fun. On arriving at the dealership the owner was nowhere to be seen. Instead we had two workers fresh off the bus from Poland. A little driving through the Somerset countryside feeling like we were going to tip over on every corner and driving up any hill was in 1st gear making an almighty racket.Parking up at the abandoned University car park to take some photos as you are now seeing, a car pulls up with a lady and her family. "That is the Mongolian flag" she said with surprise, "I'm from Mongolia!". I kid you not, how bloody bizarre was that. Having been to Mongolia myself in 2005, we talked about where I had been and she even knew the people (guide, hotel owner in UB) that I met in Ulaan Bator. Very spooky!

If anyone wants to buy a Citroen 2CV, please get in touch ASAP!!

More: Yak to the Future website

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Jaipur bombings kill 63 people

Indian authorities imposed a daylong curfew in the historic city of Jaipur on Wednesday, the day after serial bombs tore through the pink-walled center of this western Indian city, killing 63 people and wounding more than 100.

Police officers and civic leaders shooed people off the streets in hopes of avoiding any Hindu-Muslim tension, and foreign tourists were restricted to their hotel rooms.

It was the first terrorist attack in many months. There were no further leads on who may have been responsible for the Tuesday evening bombings, eight explosions in all, according to A. S. Gill, director general of police for Rajasthan state, of which Jaipur is the capital.

“The intention obviously was to create communal disturbances,” he said, adding that nothing of the sort had yet materialized. “It’s totally peaceful.”

The police were interrogating several people, Mr. Gill said. The explosives had been attached to bicycles, the mangled ruins of which were found at the site.

India has already blamed “foreign terrorists" for the bombings, a phrase that usually refers to neighbor and nuclear rival Pakistan. Pakistan, however, has offered swift condemnation.

The blasts stand to test the peace process under way between the two countries, particularly under the stewardship of Pakistan’s newly elected government. The Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee is due to visit Islamabad, the Pakistan capital, next week.

The bombs targeted the dense warrens of the 18th century walled city. One bomb went off in front of a temple to the Hindu god, Hanuman, which is particularly crowded with worshippers on Tuesdays. Others exploded within minutes of each other at busy intersections and in markets thronged with shoppers, including the popular Johri Bazaar, lined with jewelers. The dead and wounded included both Hindus and Muslims.

The police said nearly 40 funerals were expected to take place on Monday, and the curfew was intended to prevent inflaming communal passions.

In the pink stucco bazaar of the walled city on Wednesday morning, shops that normally peddle sweets, gold, and curled Rajasthani slippers were all shuttered. Onlookers wandered through the lanes to ogle at the bloody remains, only to be chased away when the curfew took effect.

“Hey brothers, why are you crowding around?” Ram Babu Agarwal, the member of a peace committee shouted.

“There is no communal thinking, only human sympathy,” declared Anwar Shah, a burly member of the Johri Bazaar mosque committee, as he patrolled the streets of this neighborhood hectoring people to stay inside.

The Indian federal government dispatched explosives experts Tuesday night, and put several major cities on alert, including New Delhi.

Although Jaipur, known as the pink city, is a popular tourist destination, mid-May, the peak of the Indian summer, is not a busy season, and no foreigners were killed or injured in the blast, according to police and hospital officials here.

Jitender Narwani, 31, had been offering prayers at the temple, when one of the bombs went off. Shrapnel punctured his legs.

Shahid, 16, a candle maker, had gone for a sip of water from a public tap in an area called Tripolia market when there was another blast.

Subhana Khan, 4, was shopping with her mother and two aunts in Johri Bazaar; they were all about to board a rickshaw at the time of another explosion. All but the little girl were killed.

The last major bombing in India was in August, when a pair of bombs went off in an outdoor auditorium and restaurant in the southern city of Hyderabad, killing more than 40.

Two years ago, serial blasts along the commuter train line in Mumbai, the country’s commercial capital, killed nearly 200.

Similar terrorist attacks aimed at religious sites in recent years have not succeeded in setting off sectarian violence. The Hindu holy city of Varanasi was struck by a pair of bombings in March 2006, killing 14. More than two dozen people were killed in September 2006 in a series of explosions in and near the largest mosque in Malegaon, and a blast killed two worshipers in one of the holiest Muslim shrines in Ajmer, also in Rajasthan, last September.

The curfew in Jaipur kept foreign tourists off the streets. A Spanish tour group was instructed to spend the day inside the Le Meridien Hotel on the edge of town before being taken by bus to another hotel in the evening for dinner.

David Manzanares, a tour leader, said his 104 people in his charge had been taking the events in stride. “We are Spanish people, we are used to having these kind of events,” he said. “Enjoy the pool. Have a samosa, See what happens.”

No sooner had he rattled off those instructions than a dust storm came swirling in from the Rajasthan desert, clearing the poolside and felling tall trees on the road.

More Articles in World »

Aid Groups Say Myanmar Food Stolen by Military

Local workers for a German aid organization unloaded rice into a warehouse in Yangon on Wednesday. Copyright Getty Images

The latest from Myanmar, from the NY Times
The directors of several relief organizations in Myanmar said Wednesday that some of the international aid arriving into the country for the victims of Cyclone Nargis was being stolen, diverted or warehoused by the country’s army.

The United States military’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center said there was a possibility that “a significant tropical cyclone” — a second big storm — would form within the next 24 hours and head across the Irrawaddy Delta, the region that suffered most from the first storm that struck on May 3.

In Yangon, the main commercial city, winds were already beginning to whip up Wednesday evening, but it was unclear how strong the storm would become.

Thailand’s prime minister, Samak Sundaravej, flew to Yangon on Wednesday to persuade Myanmar’s leaders to allow more foreign aid workers into the country. The members of the military junta told him they were in control of the relief operations and had no need for foreign experts, he told reporters after returning to Bangkok, The Associated Press reported.

The government said there were no outbreaks of disease or starvation among the hundreds of thousands of people affected by the cyclone. In Yangon, Mr. Sundaravej met the prime minister, Lt. Gen. Thein Sein, The A.P. said.

The aid directors in Myanmar declined to be quoted directly on their concerns about the stolen relief supplies for fear of angering the ruling junta and jeopardizing their operations, although Marcel Wagner, country director of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, confirmed that aid was being diverted by the army. He said the issue would become an increasing problem, although he declined to give further details because of the sensitivity of the situation.

International aid shipments continued to arrive Wednesday, including five new air deliveries of relief supplies from the United States. Western diplomats said their representatives at the airport were making sure the cargo was unloaded efficiently and then trucked to staging areas.

The fate of the supplies after that, however, remained unknown, because the junta has barred all foreigners, including credentialed diplomats and aid workers, from accompanying any donated aid, tracking its distribution or following up on its delivery.

Myanmar state radio reported Wednesday that the death toll from the May 3 cyclone had risen again, to 38,491, Agence France-Presse reported, with 27,838 people still missing. The toll has been increasing daily as more of the missing are identified as dead. The United Nations has estimated that the toll could be more than 60,000.

The International Red Cross estimated Wednesday that the cyclone death toll was between 68,833 and 127,990, according to the A.P.

There were rumors in the capital on Wednesday that special high-energy biscuits donated for distribution in the disaster areas had been replaced by cheaper, off-the-shelf crackers. But Mr. Wagner and the others said they had not heard of high-quality foodstuffs being stolen and replaced by inferior products.

Although aid flights are now regularly seen arriving at the Yangon airport, international rescue teams and disaster-relief experts for the most part are being kept away from the country. A small French rescue team has arrived in Yangon, although it was unclear whether it had received official permission. The government announced that it would allow in 160 relief workers from neighboring countries, including India, China, Bangladesh, and Thailand. But diplomats and representatives of aid missions said that visas for overseas experts were still being denied.

Mr. Wagner said he and his agency’s foreign staff members were now barred from the Irrawaddy Delta, even to areas where the group has ongoing projects dating from before the storm. Fortunately, he said, he has Burmese staff who are permitted come and go through an increasing number of military checkpoints.

The Adventist group specializes in rainwater collection, water filtration and sanitation — just the kinds of expertise most needed now — and Mr. Wagner said outside experts were needed to train local people in the proper use of filters, pumps and hygiene practices.

Reports have been mixed about how much aid was actually getting through to the delta. One longtime relief coordinator in Myanmar said Tuesday that 30 percent of the people in the damaged areas had been reached. But other agencies were encouraged about recent improvements in deliveries, especially those groups with projects and local staff already in place, and the agencies with established working relationships with the government.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Vote for me! - Canon, The Assignment photography competition

I've just entered a brand new photography competition and need your help to be in with a chance of winning it!

The Assignment is a new European photography competition from Canon which challenges amateur photographers to submit their best work. There are four categories - Portrait, Landscape, Sport and Macro - and 19 European countries are taking part.

My chosen photo which is part of the portrait category, is of the young girl traditionally dressed I took in Cochin, south India. She was one of a number of dancers who were waiting nervously back stage before performing a traditional dance to the onlookers at an New Year's Eve celebration.

The initial part of the competition seems more a popularity one than one based on actual talent, as only the most popular photos as voted by the public will get as far as the judging stage.

To be in with chance of getting that far I need the help of you good people. If you can, please visit the link below and vote for my entry. The only set back is you need to register on the site before you can vote.

Click here to vote for Mark Coughlan in The Assignment competition!

Thanks a bunch and I'll buy you all a drink!

Cyclone’s Toll in Myanmar Is Raised to Nearly 32,000

Members of the Burmese military unloaded supplies from a U.S. Air Force C-130 military cargo aircraft at the Yangon airport.

As the authorities in Myanmar raised the cyclone death toll to nearly 32,000 and admitted one American military aircraft with the first delivery of large-scale aid, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon pressed the junta to let international assistance and aid workers into the country without hindrance and expressed “deep concern and immense frustration” with what he called “the unacceptably slow response to this grave humanitarian crisis.”

In unusually blunt language for a United Nations leader, he said, “This is not about politics, it is about saving people’s lives. There is absolutely no more time to lose.”

The sharp comments from Mr. Ban came on a day when the authorities in Myanmar allowed a United States military aircraft to land with relief supplies Monday, crossing a barrier that has prevented the delivery of large-scale aid to more than a million victims of the May 3 cyclone, even as state television has put the death toll at 31,938 with 29,770 people missing.

But the United Nations raised its estimate Monday to between 62,000 and 100,000 dead.

Mr. Ban said that he had been trying for four days without success to reach the country’s senior general, Than Swe, and had sent a second letter to him Monday alerting him to the United Nations’ efforts to provide help and its need for “greater access and freedom of movement.”

He said too that the countries of the region have “a special responsibility and a special role in securing the full cooperation of Myanmar’s government.”

John Holmes, the undersecretary general in charge of emergency said that while there had been “slight progress” in granting visas to relief workers, only 34 of more than 100 applications had been approved.

United Nations officials said that the distribution of most deliveries of international relief supplies were still being blocked to the most badly affected parts of the country. They say help is reaching fewer than one-third of those in need.

A group of high-level officials greeted the unarmed C-130 transport plane carrying in the first American aid, in an extraordinary scene of cooperation between two nations whose only relations in recent years have been acrimonious.

In a sign that this was more than simply a cargo delivery, the aircraft also carried Adm. Timothy J. Keating, the commander of the United States military in the Pacific.

In a telephone interview, Admiral Keating said that it had been years, if not decades, since an American military officer of his rank had visited Myanmar.

He said the United States had about a dozen medium- and heavy-lift military helicopters on standby in Thailand, ready to assist. In addition, he said a three-ship naval task force with another dozen transport helicopters was 24 hours away, and ready to help relief efforts.

“We told them we could come in during the day and leave at night, that they could put Burmese officials on our planes and ships, and that we would provide our own fuel,” Admiral Keating said. “We told them we wouldn’t stay a day longer than they wanted.”

Meanwhile, reports out of the Irrawaddy Delta, the worst-hit area, continued to signal a growing and gruesome catastrophe, according to Western diplomats in Yangon.

People whose homes, farms and food stocks were destroyed have been making their way to more than half a dozen refugee camps north of the delta, although these were more like gathering places rather than organized camps, with food, water, shelter and medical assistance.

“It’s grim, and getting grimmer,” said one Western diplomat in Yangon. “The vast majority of people out there haven’t been reached. It’s a challenge to get stuff there anyway. Now it’s a double challenge.”

Another worry is the start of the rainy season, which usually begins in mid-May. Rice stocks need to dry, and new rice needs to be planted. Aid workers said there was one possible upside to more rain: people without fresh water might be able to collect rainwater for drinking.

A government spokesman said that the United States delivery of mosquito nets, blankets and water on Monday would be ferried by Myanmar military helicopters to the worst-hit areas. Two more shipments were scheduled to land Tuesday.

By their stubbornness in refusing to allow the rapid distribution of relief supplies, the generals who rule Myanmar are turning the cyclone that struck more than a week ago from a devastating natural disaster into a man-made disaster of huge proportions.

As the disaster grows and pressure from the outside world intensifies, the junta faces a dilemma.

If it opens its doors to large numbers of foreigners, it may never be able to seal the country again against the outside influences and interference it dreads.

By keeping foreign assistance out, though, the generals must be ready to accept the deaths of hundreds of thousands more people, according to foreign relief officials. At the moment, this is the choice it appears to be making. But even if there are divisions within the leadership over policy, most analysts say the junta is likely to maintain its grip.

“I don’t think anything is going to happen,” said Terrence Lee, an expert on regional militaries from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University. “They have too much invested in the regime to have any ideas of jumping ship.” It is a truism that any change must come from within the power structure.

“I believe the junta is really walking on thin ice and has been since the attacks on the monks last September,” said Josef Silverstein, an expert on Myanmar at Rutgers University, referring to a violent crackdown on peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations.

But, he said, “the mechanism for change will be from within the junta itself. I don’t see how any civilian group or individual can influence the outcome given the extent of power and control the junta has.”

The change could range from a coup at the top that might bring little change in policy, to a liberal opening that could even involve cooperation with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the pro-democracy leader who has spent 12 of the past 18 years under house arrest.

In any case, the military would remain in charge.

The military pervades almost all the workings of government and business and even Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi has said that the military would have to be involved in any future power structure.

The four pillars of the military’s world view, said Mr. Lee, are nationalism, paranoia, self-reliance and ethnocentrism. All of these seem to be in play now.

The cyclone challenges the image the junta projects — and its self-perception — as an all-powerful protector of its people and their defender against a foreign presence. When relief shipments have arrived, the junta has in many cases insisted on distributing it, and newspapers carry photographs and reports of military officers handing out foreign aid.

The Burmese expatriate grapevine is filled with reports that the junta is divided, that younger or more liberal officers have had enough and that change will finally come.

There is no real evidence for this.

One exile found meaning in a recent photograph on the front page of the government mouthpiece, The New Light of Myanmar, which showed four top generals facing the camera.

“Than Shwe and Maung Aye were smiling,” this hopeful analyst said, referring to the two top generals in the junta. “But the other two generals were not.”

Aung Naing Oo, a Burmese political analyst and refugee who is based in Thailand, reads a pattern of indecisiveness and possible internal conflict into an initial confusion over whether to allow the American relief flight.

On Thursday, the United States Embassy in Bangkok was ready to announce an agreement, only to find that Myanmar seemed to have changed its mind.

Then on the following day, permission for the flight was given.

But for now, such differences have appeared to be only ripples on the surface. The solidity of the 400,000-strong military, known as the Tatmadaw, runs deep.

The military cements the loyalty of its officers with a combination of privileges and harsh punishment, as well as isolation from any understanding of the outside world. Officers live in a cocooned, privileged world where they can send their children to special schools and take part in the corruption that amounts to a major sector of the economy.

Without a military connection, it is difficult to rise in life. Myanmar is not just a military-run state; it is a military state.

Apart from a purge in 2004, there have never been serious rifts in the military, experts say. Even if there are divisions of opinion or revulsion over policy, they say, the structure is likely to remain intact.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Aid Flows to Myanmar as Death Toll Rises

Photo: Copyright Vorasit Satienlerk/Reuters

In almost 12 months to the day that I left to spend a month in Myanmar, South East Asia's untouched gem, comes the news is that at least 22,000 Burmese have died and up to a million people have been left homeless by the catastrophic cyclone that battered the country.

From the New York Times: Tuesday 7th May 2008
The death toll from a powerful cyclone that struck Myanmar three days ago rose to 22,500 Tuesday, with a further 41,000 people still missing, the government said, and foreign governments and aid organizations began mobilizing for a major relief operation.
Shaken by the scope of the disaster, the authorities said they would delay a vote in the worst affected areas on a new constitution that was meant to cement the military’s grip on power.

The death toll was the latest in a steadily escalating official count since Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar early Saturday, devastating much of the fertile Irrawaddy Delta and Yangon, the nation’s main city.
At a news conference in Yangon, the minister for relief and resettlement, Maung Maung Swe, said 41,000 people were still missing in the aftermath of the cyclone, which triggered a surge of water inland from the sea.

“More deaths were caused by the tidal wave than the storm itself," he said, in the first official description of the destruction. “The wave was up to 12 feet high and it swept away and inundated half the houses in low-lying villages. They did not have anywhere to flee.”

A spokesman for the United Nations World Food Program said that as many as one million people might have lost their homes and that some villages were almost totally destroyed.

The constitutional referendum was still to go ahead on May 10 in other parts of the country but would be delayed until May 24 in the worst affected regions, where more than a third of the population live.

The postponement of the vote, a centerpiece of government policy, along with an appeal for foreign disaster relief assistance, were difficult concessions by an insular military junta that portrays itself as all-powerful and self-sufficient, analysts said.

"It suggests that they realize that they’ve got a real problem on their hands and have limited capacity to deal with this," said a Western diplomat in Yangon, speaking on condition of anonymity because of his embassy’s policy.

At a news conference, Kyaw Hsan, Myanmar’s information minister, conceded the difficulties.

"The task is very wide and extensive and the government needs the cooperation of the people and well-wishers from at home and abroad," he said.

"We will not hide anything," he said. "Please ask the people not to be duped by rumors or fabrication."

In an effort to stem profiteering as prices rose for food fuel and building materials, he said, "We are coordinating and cooperating with businessmen. We appeal to entrepreneurs and businessmen not to cash in on the disaster."

Residents of Yangon reached by telephone described a city in tatters, with fallen trees, a lack of power and water and, in the poorer outskirts, badly damaged homes. Tank trucks were selling water from Inya Lake, in the center of the city, they said.

The high winds blew roofs off the cages at the zoo, one person reported, and a baboon or gibbon was spotted Monday sitting on top of a giant plastic ruby in the middle of a traffic circle near Shwedagon pagoda.

"He refused to get down," the resident said, speaking anonymously because of a government ban on unofficial news. "This afternoon, when my driver and I drove by — the ruby and the monkey were gone!"

State radio said the referendum would be delayed for two weeks in badly hit areas that include the Irrawaddy Delta and much of Yangon.

These areas are centers of repressed opposition to the junta, and now potential centers of anger over what is described by both residents and foreign diplomats as an ineffectual government response to the cyclone.

Residents have described a mood of anger and a grim resignation at the junta’s power since the military shot into crowds last September to quell a huge non-violent pro-democracy uprising led by Buddhist monks.

At least 31 people, and possibly many more, were killed during that uprising, and thousands were detained, including large numbers of monks.

There were several accounts over the weekend of monks leaving their monasteries to help clear away storm wreckage, even as the military offered little help to residents.

International aid groups were assessing the country’s needs and preparing shipments of food and materials that included roofing materials, plastic tarpaulins, mosquito nets, water purifying tablets and medication to prevent outbreaks of cholera and malaria.

"We hope to fly in more assistance within the next 48 hours," said the World Food Program spokesman, Paul Risley, speaking in Bangkok. "The challenge will be getting to the affected areas with road blockages everywhere."

A military transport plane was scheduled to arrive Tuesday with emergency aid from Thailand.

A number of other nations and organizations, including the United Nations, the European Commission and Myanmar’s powerful neighbor China, said they were prepared to deliver aid.

In Geneva, a United Nations spokeswoman, Elisabeth Byrs, said that Myanmar had said it would welcome aid supplies and that disaster assessment officials were now awaiting visas to enter the country.

“Our biggest fear is that the aftermath could be more lethal than the storm itself," said Caryl Stern, who heads the United Nations Children’s Fund in the United States.

The organization, UNICEF, said it had sent five assessment teams into affected areas and that relief supplies were being prepared for delivery.

The United States, which has led a drive for economic sanctions against Myanmar’s repressive regime, said it would also provide aid, but only if an American disaster team was invited into the country.

The policy was presented by the first lady, Laura Bush, , along with a lecture to the junta about human rights and disaster relief.

"This is a cheap shot," said Aung Nain Oo, a Burmese political analyst who is based in Thailand. "The people are dying. This is no time for a political message to be aired. This is a time for relief. No one is asking for anything like this except the United States."

Photo: Copyright Hla Hla Htay/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

From the New York Times: Monday 6th May 2008

Myanmar struggled Monday to recover from a cyclone that killed more than 3,900 people and perhaps as many as 15,000.
Foreign Minister Noppadol Pattama of Thailand met with Myanmar's ambassador on Tuesday, according to Reuters. After the meeting, Mr. Noppadol said that 15,000 people had been killed and another 30,000 were missing.

If those numbers are accurate, the death toll would be the highest from a natural disaster in Asia since the tsunami of December 2004, which devastated coastlines in South Asia and claimed 181,000 lives.

On Monday, three cabinet ministers told diplomats the death toll could reach 10,000 people in the delta region, an area that is home to nearly half of Myanmar’s 48 million people, according to Richard Horsey, a spokesman for the United Nations disaster response office in Bangkok.

State radio reported that Saturday's vote on a draft constitution would be delayed until May 24 in 40 townships around Yangon and seven in the Irrawaddy delta, which bore the brunt of the killer storm, according to The Associated Press. It indicated that in other areas the balloting would proceed as scheduled.

Tens of thousands of people were homeless after the cyclone, and food and water were running short.

“Stories get worse by the hour,” one Yangon resident, who did not want to be identified for fear of government retribution, said in an e-mail message. “No drinking water in many areas, still no power. Houses completely disappeared. Refugees scavenging for food in poorer areas. Roofing, building supplies, tools — all are scarce and prices skyrocketing on everything.”

Officials said they would open the doors of their closed and tightly controlled nation to international relief groups. So far, most foreigners and all foreign journalists have been barred from entering the country.

They also said the referendum would proceed. “It’s only a few days left before the coming referendum and people are eager to cast their vote,” an official statement said Monday.

But witnesses and residents said the military had been slow to respond to the devastation of the cyclone, and some suggested that the government’s performance could affect the vote.

Residents of the country, formerly known as Burma, said that they were being pressured to vote “yes” and that riot police officers had been patrolling the streets before the cyclone in a show of force that was more visible than their relief efforts afterward.

Nine months ago, security forces had fired into crowds, killing dozens of people, to disperse huge pro-democracy demonstrations led by monks, and in the months since, the government has carried out a campaign of arrests and intimidation.

State-owned television had reported early Monday that 3,934 people died in the cyclone, called Nargis, which swept through the Irrawaddy Delta and the country’s main city, Yangon, formerly Rangoon, early Saturday. The broadcast said nearly 3,000 were missing, all of them from a single town, Bogale.

“What is clear,” Mr. Horsey said Monday, “is that we are dealing with a major emergency situation, and the priority needs now are shelter and clean drinking water.”

A spokesman for the World Food Program said the government of Myanmar, which severely restricts the movements and activities of foreign groups, had given the United Nations permission to send in emergency aid.

At the United Nations, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he had mobilized a disaster assessment team to determine Myanmar’s most urgent needs.

A human rights group based in Thailand, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), which has provided reliable information from Myanmar in the past, said soldiers and police officers had killed 36 prisoners in Insein prison to quell a riot that started after the cyclone tore roof sheets off cell blocks, Reuters reported. The report could not be independently confirmed.

The junta that rules Myanmar has closed the country off from the outside world and maintained its grip on power through force, while its economic mismanagement has driven the country deeper into poverty.

Some government-run enterprises or businesses with links to the government have already required their employees to vote in advance.

Exile groups said some residents had told them they were angry about the weak response of the military, which had seemed strong enough when the task was to crack down on citizens.

Monday, 5 May 2008

CNN news report on Cyclone hit Myanmar

Latest video footage courtesy of CNN news, reporting on storm ravaged Myanmar, where thousands are feared dead after Cyclone Nargis hit on Saturday.

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