China and Myanmar: Two tales of two disasters

Two natural disasters in tightly-controlled Asian nations have produced two very different responses: Myanmar's very slow reaction to Cyclone Nargis, and China's speedy response to a killer earthquake.

Xinhua reports that China’s death toll has officially risen to 14,866. An unofficial tally of deaths in individual communities puts the toll at 19,565. Xinhua also said nearly 26,000 people were still buried under debris and another 14,000 missing.

Meanwhile, China’s Ministry of Water Resources warned that Dujiangyan City -- which has a population of about 630,000 -- "would be swamped," if major problems emerged at the nearby seriously cracked dam.

One must commend the Chinese authorities and those overseeing the relief effort for the amazing job they have done despite massive challenges. (One must also note the irony that a country long seen as violating its citizens’ human rights is doing so much more for their citizens caught in a natural disaster than the American government did for the citizens of New Orleans.)

Meanwhile in Myanmar, the military junta has reportedly insisted it does not need help from foreign aid experts, while funneling off aid that has reached the country.

The good news is that it appears, that while limiting the amount of incoming aid shipments, they appear to be increasing the numbers they are allowing in. So there is some guarded optimism. Among the bad news, weather forecasts predict more bad weather this week for the cyclone-devastated country.

Through the recent disasters in Myanmar and China we realize once again just how frail humankind really is. And how it’s the decisions of those in control, and how they respond to things totally out of their control, that directly affects the lives of their citizens.

As for us as citizens of our respective countries, while we have no control over disasters happening, we do have the power to each give a little cash to aid relief efforts in the Chinese earthquake and Myanmar cyclone paths, choosing a charity of our choice that has been working in the country for years.

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