What About Myanmar (Burma) ?

Looking at maps of South East Asia and the Indian Ocean, it was striking that whilst Thailand, Bangladesh and the Anadaman & Nicobar Islands (not to mention Sumatra/Aceh, India, Sri-Lanka and West Africa) were all making the tsunami news in the last few days, it was as if Burma was off the map ?

If Phuket and Phi Phi were wrecked, how could the adjacent and much longer coast and islands of Myanmar not be similarly affected, not to mention further up around Yangon and the Irrawaddy and beyond.

It’s at times like this you notice how repressive a regime exists there – all e-mail from and web-sites within its borders being censored, and very little western access to the country. Free Burmese press outside Myanmar, has little more access to information than the official and approved sources at times like this. The official toll still stands at only 90, with only suggestions of thousands “the number is being under-reported, and not by a little” [Foundation for the People of Burma].

There are positive reports of specific Burmese beaches and areas being unaffected by the tsunami, but also reports of more significant aftershock earthquakes in Myanmar and Northern Thailand, including specific reports of the earthquake itself breaking ground and throwing up fire & lava. Chillingly defensive statements from the official press (New Light of Myanmar) “No country in the world can predict the earthquake …. do not believe rumours.”

[Radio Free Asia][Melbourne Herald Sun][ABC News / Reuters]

Also [Road To Mandalay], private business, but presumably “approved” site inside Myanmar says … Fortunately Myanmar was spared most of the force of the Tsunamis. The Myeik / Mergui archipelago and coastal towns were largely untouched, and hence the Moken (Sea Gypsies) are safe. In Kawthoung a bridge collaped. Ngapali, Chaunga and Nwesaung beaches have not been affected. The main affected areas are in the Ayeyawady Delta.

Also, from SmartTravelAsia “Myanmar escaped lightly and beach areas are not affected. According to Martijn van der Valk, general manager of the venerable The Strand (www.ghmhotels.com) , Yangon, ?At 7.40am on Sunday 26 December we felt a three-minute minor earthquake, shaking beds and tables and chairs, and swinging chandeliers.? The hotel is unaffected and the airport is functioning normally. The Bayview Resort on Ngapali Beach reports that the hotel is ?not affected? and beach activities continue normally.”

And from Xinhua Online China News “According to government statistics, 36 people were killed, 14 missing and 45 injured as of Tuesday afternoon by earthquake and tsunami. The figures also said 138 buildings were destroyed in some parts of the country’s six divisions and states — Tanintharyi, Yangon, Bago, Ayeyawaddy, Rakhine and Shan (South) and 778 people were left homeless. Meanwhile, a moderate earthquake of 5.1-magnitude with its epicenter 286 km north of Yangon occurred at 7:40 am (local time) Thursday morning, the country’s meteorology department announced. No casualties have so far been reported.”

Here’s hoping Myanmar was indeed fortunate. Perhaps those offshore islands were mainly uninhabited and protected much of the rest of the coastline, and perhaps the angle of the coastline north of the Thai border means the progress of the wave from the initial quake was mainly along the shore ?

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