Devastation in China, Burma

Published June 1, 2008

A child at a village south of Yangon, Burma, receives bread from a local donor; the area was devastated in early May by Cyclone Nargis. Burma’s military regime was accused of blocking foreign aid by denying visas.

The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) is accepting donations to help Burma (also known as Myanmar), which was devastated by a cyclone on May 2 and 3, and in China, where a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck on May 12.

Cyclone Nargis killed tens of thousands in Burma and left more than a million others homeless, according to various media. The earthquake in China, centred in the province of Sichuan, killed at least 12,000 people; a day after the quake, 18,000 were believed buried in the city of Mianyang, according to Reuters.

PWRDF, the relief and development arm of the Anglican Church of Canada, said it would co-ordinate its response with its fellow member agencies under Action by Churches Together (ACT). In mid-May, it committed $30,000 as an initial response to ACT’s appeal for funds for Burma, and $10,000 for China.

The bishop of British Columbia, James Cowan, said two vigils for Burma had been held in his diocese, which has a companion relationship with the Church in the Province of Myanmar.

“So far we are pushing PWRDF donations,” said Bishop Cowan. “Once the relief agencies have things in order, we as a diocese are intending to raise funds to assist with reconstruction in the (Irawaddy) Delta area, and with the theological college in Yangon.”

Holy Cross Theological College, the only such school in the Church of the Province of Myanmar, was severely damaged by the cyclone, according to its principal, Rev. Simon Be Bin Htu.

The Myanmar church has formed a committee to assess the situation of parishes and the villages where they are located. An initial report said that at least 10 parishes were badly affected and some villages have disappeared, with the fate of villagers unknown.

Much-needed relief was significantly delayed due to the Burmese military regime’s reluctance to accept help from the international community. Many countries offered aid but were denied visas. Aid agencies, concerned about the military possibly siphoning off aid, also strategized the best ways of bringing in relief.

Cyclone Nargis triggered a storm surge and flooding in at least five states where more than half of Burma’s 53 million people live, according to ACT. The BBC said that the casualties could number more than 100,000.

China’s worst earthquake in more than three decades struck the hardest in Wenchuan, about 100 km from Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province.


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