(10 am – promoted by ek hornbeck)
First, breaking news this morning. There has been a 7.8 earthquake in China that has left four schoolchildren and one adult dead:
Chinese President Hu Jintao has called for “all-out” efforts to rescue victims of an earthquake measuring 7.8 that has hit south-western China.
The quake struck 92km (57 miles) north-west of Sichuan’s provincial capital, Chengdu, at 1428 (0628 GMT).
The children were killed, and more than 100 others injured, when primary school buildings collapsed in the Chongqing area, a large municipality near Sichuan province, Xinhua added.
Another person is reported to have died when a water tower collapsed in the city of Mianyang, in Santai County.
The Bangkok Post gives further details of the magnitude of the quake:
Government and local officials said the quake struck at 2:28pm local time (1:28pm in Thailand) in Wenchuan county, Sichuan province. It was felt in cities hundreds of kilometres away, including Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, in addition to Bangkok.
“Major tremors” were felt by residents of cities closer to the epicentre, including Sichuan’s capital, Chengdu, and nearby Chongqing, the official news agency Xinhua said.
(Meanwhile in Myanmar below.- ek)
Meanwhile, in neighboring Myanmar coverage of the disaster caused by Cyclone Nargis has been driven underground, with journalists ducking the police. If there was a Pulitzer Prize given out for YouTubes, this would be my choice:
The above video tells the story of vlogger cmozart and his attempt to evacuate his wife before the May 10th elections, anticipating the violence this event may cause. He was in country when the cyclone struck, and his local footage reveals not only the extent of the damage the cyclone caused but also provides a first-hand look at the utter lack of response by local authorities to immediately deal with the devastation.
The iconic moment of a bus attempting to negotiate a busy intersection while getting caught by a downed power line, and an anonymous citizen grabbing the line with his bare, unprotected hands and then becoming a default traffic cop is a powerful metaphor of the military junta’s handling of this situation (or lack thereof).
CNN’s Dan Rivers documents his ducking through a back staircase to avoid local police, attempting to come to terms with the target local authorities have placed on his back:
Even Al Jazeera, once singled out by US officials in Iraq (and possibly the target of a US airstrike during the invasion of Baghdad) admits to having to “film covertly” to avoid authorities:
Canada’s Globe and Mail reports that UN officials are now estimating the number of dead from the cyclone at over 200,000, while local authorities – who apparently have so much on their plates with dissembling, and holding faux elections, and distributing a small number of aid packages in staged photo ops with the names of generals lovingly inscribed on the side (just to make sure folks understand who’s really in charge of whether they live or die) – either do not understand or do not care about the actual extent of the suffering their citizens are going through:
At a meeting in Rangoon yesterday, a Myanmar cabinet minister told relief agencies that foreign aid workers are prohibited from entering the disaster zone and must give all of their supplies to the government for distribution.
A few relief agencies have managed to evade those rules, but the minister’s statement was a sign that the military regime is determined to maintain a tight grip on the entire relief operation, even though its restrictions have hampered the aid distribution.
The military junta has been minimizing the death toll by denying that any survivors have died since the start of the relief operation, sources say. At the meeting yesterday, for example, the Myanmar cabinet minister insisted that not a single person has died of thirst, hunger or disease in the aftermath of the cyclone. Nobody believed the statement, according to a relief worker who attended the meeting.
The Chicago Tribune reports that the addition of another unstable element – the weather – could make things even more dire:
U Maung Saw and his family are in a race against the rain.
Cyclone Nargis pounded their house as flat as the mud where the broken pieces now lie. A 5-foot wave, driven by a storm surge that rolled 20 miles upriver from the Andaman Sea, crashed onto his doorstep, washing away almost everything the family of seven owned.
The flooding and torrential rain May 4 also ruined a fifth of the unmilled rice they had stockpiled since harvesting the paddy in the Irrawaddy River delta in late March. A week after the storm, the rest of the rice is so damp that it must be spread on the mucky ground to dry in the sun before it rots.
And therein lies the problem: A tropical depression is bearing down on southern Myanmar. And in countless villages like this, where no one has received outside aid, the clock is counting down to another potential disaster.
Vloggers on YouTube have had different responses to this unfolding tragedy.
One vlogger has issued a challenge to the YouTube community: respond to his YouTube with a video of support to the people of Myanmar, and he will donate five dollars to the Red Cross for each response. If he loves your video he’ll up his response to ten dollars:
Here’s the URL for folks who want to respond: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…
Vlogger myochitmyanmar posted this time lapsed video of artist and former Iranian political prisoner Davood Roostaei painting a portrait of opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Aung San Suu Kyi:
Still others post images timed to music, like this one done by Smakgakgak (please note that some of these images from the disaster are disturbing):
In the face of the head-in-the-sand approach of Burma’s military junta, sometimes it’s cathartic to look at someone’s raw, blunt and unvarnished opinion. I’m not a fan of rants (as I’ve expressed to some folks in the threads of some of my diaries), but if you’re searching for a rant that says everything you wish you could yell from your rooftop this post from weezie63 is a particularly effective one:
You know, I have tried to, uh, see things from their [the military junta’s] perspective, but I just can’t get my head that far up my a**.
Please all of the people in Burma – and the victims of the earthquake in China – in your thoughts, prayers and meditations.
UPDATE The AP is now reporting that the earthquake in China has buried 900 students:
State media report that a powerful earthquake has buried nearly 900 students in China’s Sichuan province.
The Xinhua News Agency did not immediately give any other details or say if any of the students were thought to be alive.
It has also reported that four students were killed and more than 100 students injured when the 7.8-magnitude quake knocked down two schools in neighboring Chongqing municipality
UPDATE (2x) The New York Times has now confirmed over 100 are dead as a result of the earthquake:
Xinhua, the official news agency, said the 107 fatalities were spread across Sichuan, neighboring Chongqing Municipality as well as in Gansu and Yunnan provinces. Damage is believed to be especially severe in Dujiangyan, a county of 600,000 people located near the epicenter. One local official described rows of collapsed houses, Xinhua reported.
Please take a moment to honor those recently deceased in this earthquake, and those who are fighting right now to save lives.
UPDATE (3x) The BBC is now reporting that thousands are dead in China:
Between 3,000 and 5,000 people may have been killed by an earthquake measuring 7.8 in just one county of south-western China’s Sichuan province, reports say.
Some 10,000 people are also feared to have been injured in Beichuan county.
Teenagers buried beneath the rubble of the three-storey Juyuan Middle School building were struggling to break free, while others were crying out for help, state news agency Xinhua reported.
Parents were watching as cranes excavated the site. Villagers rushed to help with the rescue.
Two girls said they escaped because they had “run faster than others”.