Nargis is the deadliest named cyclone in the North Indian Ocean Basin, as well as the second deadliest named cyclone of all time, behind Typhoon Nina of 1975. Including unnamed storms like the 1970 Bhola cyclone, Nargis is the 8th deadliest cyclone of all time, but an uncertainty between the deaths caused by Nargis and those caused by other cyclones (like the 1991 Bangladesh cyclone), could put Nargis as 7th deadliest or higher, because the exact death toll is unknown. Nargis was the first tropical cyclone to strike the country since Cyclone Mala made landfall in 2006, which was slightly stronger, but had a significantly lower impact.
Relief efforts were slowed for political reasons as Burma's military rulers initially resisted aid. U.S. President George W. Bush said that an angry world should condemn the way Burma's military rulers are handling the aftermath of a catastrophic cyclone. Burma's ruling party finally accepted aid a few days after India's request was accepted. Furthermore hampering the relief effort was the unfortunate fact that only ten days after the cyclone nearby central China was hit by a massive earthquake, known as the Sichuan earthquake which measured 7.9 in magnitude and it alone has taken 69,136 lives, and caused 86 billion dollars in damage (USD), making it the costliest disaster in Chinese history and third costliest disaster worldwide. Furthermore, some donated aids were found to be available in the country's black market, and Myanmar's junta warned on May 15th that legal action would be taken against people who trade or hoard international aid.
The cyclone name "Nargis" (نرگس, IPA: næɵr-ɡɵs), is an Urdu word meaning daffodil, which has its roots in the Persian Nargess (given name), which has the same meaning. The first named storm of the 2008 North Indian Ocean cyclone season, Nargis developed on April 27 in the central area of Bay of Bengal. Initially it tracked slowly northwestward and, encountering favorable conditions, it quickly strengthened. Dry air weakened the cyclone on April 29, though after beginning a steady eastward motion Nargis rapidly intensified to attain peak winds of at least 165 km/h (105 mph) on May 2 according to IMD observations; the JTWC assessed peak winds of 215 km/h (135 mph), making it a weak Category 4 cyclone on the SSHS. The cyclone moved ashore in the Ayeyarwady Division of Burma at peak intensity and, after passing near the major city of Yangon (Rangoon), the storm gradually weakened until dissipating near the border of Burma and Thailand.
On April 28 Nargis became nearly stationary while located between ridges to its northwest and southeast. That day the JTWC upgraded the storm to cyclone status, the equivalent of a minimal hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale. Around the same time, the IMD upgraded Nargis to a severe cyclonic storm. The cyclone developed a concentric eye feature, which is an eyewall outside the inner dominant eyewall, with warm waters aiding in further intensification. Early on April 29, the JTWC estimated Nargis reached winds of 160 km/h (100 mph), and at the same time the IMD classified the system as a very severe cyclonic storm. Initially, the cyclone was forecast to strike Bangladesh or southeastern India. Subsequently, the cyclone became disorganized and weakened due to subsidence and drier air; as a result, deep convection near the center markedly decreased. At the same time, the storm began a motion to the northeast around the periphery of a ridge to its southeast. The circulation remained strong despite the diminishing convection, though satellite intensity estimates using the Dvorak technique indicated the cyclone could have weakened to tropical storm status. By late on April 29, convection had begun to rebuild, though immediate restrengthening was prevented by increased wind shear.
On May 1, after turning nearly due eastward, Cyclone Nargis began rapidly intensifying, due to greatly improved outflow in association with an approaching upper-level trough. Strengthening continued as it developed a well-defined eye with a diameter of 19 km (12 mi), and early on May 2 the JTWC estimated the cyclone reached peak winds of 215 km/h (135 mph) as it approached the coast of Burma, making it a Category 4 storm. At the same time, the IMD assessed Nargis as attaining peak winds of 165 km/h (105 mph). Around 1200 UTC on May 2, Cyclone Nargis made landfall in the Ayeyarwady Division of Burma at peak strength. The storm gradually weakened as it procceded east over Burma, with its proximity to the Andaman Sea preventing rapid weakening. Its track turned to the northeast due to the approach of a mid-latitude trough to its northwest, passing just north of Yangon with winds of 130 km/h (80 mph). Early on May 3 the IMD issued its final advisory on the storm. It quickly weakened after turning to the northeast toward the rugged terrain near the Burma-Thailand border, and after deteriorating to minimal tropical storm status, the JTWC issued its last advisory on Nargis.
In Sri Lanka the cyclone produced heavy rainfall which led to flooding and landslides across ten districts in the country. The districts of Ratnapura and Kegalle were the most affected, where more than 3,000 families were displaced. Thousands of houses were flooded, with 21 reported destroyed. The rainfall left 4,500 people homeless, and more than 35,000 people were affected on the island. Three people were reported injured on the island, with two others dead.
The India Meteorological Department recommended that fishermen should not sail on the ocean during the passage of Nargis. Strong waves and gusty winds were expected along the Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh coastline in India. Additionally, the influence of the cyclone lowered temperatures along the Indian coastline, which had been affected by a severe heat wave.
When the cyclone was originally expected to strike near Bangladesh, officials requested farmers to hurriedly finish harvesting the rice crop. At the time, the country was experiencing severe food shortages from Cyclone Sidr in the previous year and flooding earlier in the year, and a direct strike from Nargis would have resulted in destroyed crops due to strong winds.
The United Nations estimated that 1.50 million people were "severely affected" by this cyclone. Estimates of the people still missing are 55,917, with 77,738 confirmed dead. Some non-governmental organizations estimating that the final toll will be over 100,000. At least 10,000 people have been reported to have perished in the delta town of Bogale alone.
Nargis was the deadliest tropical cyclone worldwide since the 1970 Bhola cyclone, which killed nearly 500,000 people. One aid worker has claimed that the death toll from the cyclone and its aftermath may reach 300,000; if this is correct, Nargis would be the 2nd deadliest cyclone ever, and the fourth deadliest natural disaster, behind the Yellow river floods and the Bhola Cyclone in Bangladesh.
Because Burma's military leaders did not count the full death toll from Nargis, leaving the area shortly after it hit, and the fact that thousands more people are still missing or washed out at sea, it is feared up to 1 million people may have died in this disaster. If this proves to be the case, Nargis would be the deadliest cyclone ever recorded, and the third deadliest natural disaster ever recorded in history, behind the Yellow River floods of 1887 and 1931 in China. The final death toll from Nargis is at least 146,000, because there were 90,000 people confirmed dead at one point, and 56,000 other people were missing, but they were never found since it struck, so it is assumed that these 56,000 missing people were killed, and thus, it's death toll will exeed that of the 1991 storm and make it the deadliest since the 1970 storm. It is now thought that hundreds of thousands of people will never be found after Nargis because their bodies have decayed, buried, or washed out to sea.
Andrew Kirkwood, country director of the British charity Save The Children, stated: "We're looking at 50,000 dead and millions of homeless, I'd characterise it as unprecedented in the history of Burma and on an order of magnitude with the effect of the  tsunami on individual countries. There might well be more dead than the tsunami caused in Sri Lanka." Foreign aid workers estimate that 2 to 3 million are homeless, in the worst disaster in Burma's history, whose total damage is comparable to that of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
Thousands of buildings were destroyed; in the town of Labutta, located in the Ayeyarwady Division, state television reported that 75 percent of buildings had collapsed and 20 percent had their roofs ripped off. One report indicated that 95 percent of buildings in the Irrawaddy Delta area were destroyed.
A United Nations official commented on the situation as follows: "It's a bad situation. Almost all the houses are smashed. People are in a terrible situation," he said. Another UN official said that "The Irrawaddy delta was hit extremely hard not only because of the wind and rain but because of the storm surge." A diplomat in Rangoon told the Reuters news agency that the area around him looked like a 'war zone' as a result of the cyclone. Burst sewage mains caused the landscape to flood with waste, ruining the rice crop.
The Daily Telegraph (UK) reported that food prices in Burma could be affected by this disaster. Woradet Wirawekhin (th: วรเดช วีระเวคิน), Deputy Director General of Thailand's Department of Information, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stated on 7 May 2008 that, in reference to a report submitted by Bansan Bunnak (th: บรรสาน บุนนาค), the Thai ambassador in Yangon, conditions in the city had deteriorated, and that most businesses and markets were closed. Mr.Wirawekhin also reported that the locals faced even more adversity in basic subsistence, because local food prices have increased two- or threefold.
According to Thai Rath Newspaper of Thailand on 8 May 2008. In the afternoon (Bangkok time) of 7 May 2008, the Burmese junta permitted Italian flights containing relief supplies from the United Nations, and twenty-five tonnes of consumable goods, to land in Burma. However, many nations and organizations hope to deliver assistance and relief to Burma without delay; most of their officials, supplies and stores are waiting in Thailand and at the Yangon airport, as the Burmese junta declines to issue visas for many of those individuals. These political tensions raise the concern that some food and medical supplies might become unusable, even before the Burmese junta officially accepts the international relief effort.
In addition to this aid, the Italian government provided 500,000 euros through the World Food Program and 500,000 euros through funding to relief agencies through the UN. An additional 123,000 euros was provided through the Red Cross, as well as 300,000 euros worth of further financing for emergency equipment.
On May 5, U.S. Chargé d'Affaires in Burma Shari Villarosa declared a disaster due to the effects of Cyclone Nargis. In response, the U.S. Agency for International Development USAID deployed a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) and immediately provided $251,000 to UNICEF, WFP, and the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for emergency food, water and sanitation, and shelter assistance.
On May 6, an additional $3 million from USAID was allocated for the provision of emergency relief assistance, including $1 million to the American Red Cross and $2 million for NGO partners and on May 12, USAID Administrator Henrietta H. Fore announced $13 million in food aid and logistics assistance through the World Food Programme. From May 12 to 20, USAID and the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) coordinated the delivery of nearly $1.2 million of U.S. relief commodities to Rangoon on 36 DOD C-130 flights. The relief supplies will provide assistance to more than 113,000 beneficiaries. The DOD efforts were under the direction of Joint Task Force Caring Response.
As of June 26, 2008, United States assistance has totaled $41,169,769 and continues to be directed by the USAID DART stationed in Thailand.
As of May 8, 2008, the Foundation for the People of Burma has a team on the ground in Rangoon and beyond providing direct assistance to thousands of refugees. Since this organization is administered by Buddhist volunteers and already has tacit permission from the Burmese government, all donations go directly for supplies. Foundation for the People of Burma. .
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has pledged $189,000 for relief. The Federation has also launched an appeal of a further CHF73.9 million. Red Cross spokesman Matt Cochrane said that cyclone survivors need everything. They need emergency shelter to keep them dry, including food supplies. He says stagnant waters are a perfect breeding ground for the malaria mosquito, so insecticide-treated nets are needed. The Red Cross suffered a setback when a boat carrying supplies sank when it hit a submerged tree. Everyone aboard survived, but most of the cargo was lost. Ten Red Cross/Red Crescent relief flights carrying medical and shelter supplies were due to land in Yangon on 12 May.
Trocaire, has been active in Burma since 1995 and were the first Irish aid agency to gain access after Cyclone Nargis. Relief work has been conducted mainly through local partners and membership of the international federation, Caritas Internationalis. Trocaire has appealed for the focus of humanitarian work in Burma not to be lost in the wake of China's more recent earthquake.
Save the Children, one of the few agencies allowed to work in Burma, said the toll would likely sharply grow in the next few days as help reaches isolated areas. On May 18, it announced that it believed that thirty thousand children younger than five were already facing malnutrition and could starve in under a month if food does not reach them.
Doctors without Borders - MSF landed a plane full of 40 tons of relief and medical supplies in Rangoon on Monday. After clearing customs the supplies were transferred to local MSF warehouses. They have approximately 200 workers in the region, many whom have been involved in long term projects there and were already in the region.
World Vision has launched a US$3 million appeal and is seeking to get international aid into the country. Staff on the ground are working to distribute food, water and other non-food items while WV Myanmar managers are seeking approval from the government to work in the worst affected areas and to bring in aid from outside.
Avaaz.org has raised over US$2 million for relief efforts in Burma, through over 25,062 individual donations. They have entrusted delivery and dissemination of the aid to the Burmese monks, bypassing the military junta. This unique approach has proved successful. As of 2008-05-24, US$550,000 is confirmed delivered to the religious establishment and another US$1,000,000 is en-route.
|An assessment team and 30 medical personnel per country.|
|AUD $25 million (USD $23.5 million) and 31 tonnes of supplies.|
|20 tonnes of food, medicine|
|EUR €250,000 (USD $387,000) and EUR 100,000 from Flanders|
|Up to USD $2 million in emergency relief, $500,000 of which is for the Red Cross, Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) is on standby; additional aid to come|
|USD $10 million in aid and relief materials (including 3 flights using Jade Cargo each consisting of 60 tonnes of aid)|
|USD $2.1 million|
|USD $3.0 million|
|EUR €300,000 (USD $464,000)|
|1,500 tons of medicine, food, and water; USD $775,000|
|USD $3.0 million|
|USD $200,000, medicine and humanitarian aid|
|USD $300,000, medicine, food, humanitarian aid|
|More than 178 tonnes of relief materials; tents, food supplies, medicines. A team of 50 medical personnel is being sent to set up hospitals in the Irrawaddy delta.|
|USD $1 million in cash and other aids in foods and medicines|
|EUR €1,000,000 (USD $1,550,000)|
|USD $100,000, food and medical supplies by private organizations|
|EUR €1,500,000 (USD $2,250,000)|
|JPY ¥28 million in tents and generators = USD $267,000; USD $10 million through UN World Food Program & USD $570,000 pledged assistance|
|USD $20,000 worth of food|
|Lithuanian government donated Lt200,000 ($90,000) to Red Cross.|
|EUR €1,000,000 (USD $1,550,000)|
|NZD $3.5 million|
|Up to USD $1.96 million|
|Relief materials and setting up of a mobile hospital in the affected region upon approval of Burmese government.|
|Medical workers and $3,000,000 USD and relief goods in cash|
|80 tonnes of food, generators, medicine, tents and blankets|
|Relief materials, medicines and medical supply.|
|USD $775,000 donation to World Food Programme|
|USD $100,000 plus food and assistance of medical workers|
|Logistical support and water cleaning systems|
|USD $475,000 (initial)|
|USD $100,000, food and medical supplies (initial)|
|USD $1,000,000 from Ministry of Foreign Affairs, USD $600,000 from Turkish Red Crescent|
|GBP ₤17 million (USD $33.5 million), HMS Westminster|
|USD $41.170 million (as of June 26, 2008)|
Thairath Newspaper of Thailand reported that many Burmese people were displeased with the junta government, as they had provided no appropriate warning system for the incoming cyclone. In addition, they believed the mayhem caused by the cyclone and associated flooding was further exacerbated by an uncooperative response from the junta. For example, with no appropriate measures currently in place to manage the increasing number of dead bodies in the cyclone's aftermath, it was reported that the corpses are now simply being abandoned on the streets, with the situation worsening as time passes, exemplifying foreign concerns that the emergence and spread of communicable diseases would ensue. In addition, the International Society for Political Prisoner Assistance, located in Bangkok, reported human rights oversights during the disaster, alleging that corrections officers employed with the government had fired upon the prisoners of Yangon's Insein Prison who were attempting to escape amidst the chaos. It has been reported that 36 prisoners were killed and about 70 others were injured. The Burmese junta denied both reports.
On 9 May 2008, the junta officially declared that their acceptance of international aid relief would be limited to food, medicines and other supplies as well as financial aid, but would not allow additional foreign aid workers or military units to operate in the country. Samak Sundaravej, Prime Minister of Thailand, stated that, following the request of Eric G. John, U.S. Ambassador to Thailand, he will visit Myanmar on 11 May in order to urge the junta to open the country. Quinton Quayle, U.K. Ambassador to Thailand, later remarked that he will also join Sundaravej. However, the junta immediately replied that it was not willing to welcome anyone at this time. Sundaravej has said that he will still submit the mediating letter to the junta without delay.
The delays have attracted international condemnation. Also, on 9 May in Bangkok, Richard Horsey, representative of the United Nations, issued a warning for Myanmar to no longer decline the full scale of international relief effort as another storm, as deadly as the Nargis, is headed towards the country. The new storm would probably worsen the circumstances. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged the junta to allow aid in "without hindrance". Ban's comments came after the World Food Programme resumed food aid after two shipments of high-energy biscuits were stolen by the military. The Canadian House of Commons condemned the Burmese government's response in a resolution passed unanimously on May 9, 2008. Oxfam International's regional chief Sarah Ireland warned that 1.5 million face death if they do not get clean water and sanitation soon: "It's really crucial that people get access to clean water sources and sanitation to avoid unnecessary deaths and suffering. Myanmar's government seems unaware of the scope of the death and destruction Cyclone Nargis wrought on the country more than a week ago, it was reported May 13 2008. Some critics are even suggesting genocide since the Burmese government has deliberately denied storm victims aid, allowing for hundreds of thousands to potentially die from starvation, exposure, and disease.
On May 16 2008, the Burmese UN ambassador accused France of deploying a warship to the Burmese coast. The French UN ambassador denied the LHD Mistral was a warship, and claimed Burma's refusal to allow increased aid into the country "could lead to a true crime against humanity." France has stated the ship in question is carrying 1,500 tons of relief supplies. UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown has accused the ruling junta of allowing the disaster to grow into a "man-made catastrophe" through its failure to act. He also rebuked the junta as being guilty of inhuman actions.
On May 19, Burma agreed to allow aid from members of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) to enter. The decision came after an emergency ASEAN summit. The aid will start arriving May 21. Ban Ki-moon will probably visit the country the same day to "accelerate relief efforts". That day, Ban announced that Burma was going to "allow all aid workers regardless of nationalies" to enter, although ships and helicopters are still not expected to be allowed. The announcement came after Ban had met with junta leader General Than Shwe for over two hours. Organizations welcoming the announcement included World Vision, the World Food Programme, and the International Rescue Committee.
On May 23, negotiations between UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and Than Shwe have resulted in the opening of Burma to aid workers, regardless of nationality. Burma's government is still staunchly opposed to the presence of military units in the country, only allowing dedicated relief workers. On June 5, a USS Essex-led American carrier group full of aid left the Burmese coast after being denied entry for several weeks, taking its aid back undelivered.
On May 27, to complicate world opinion and in contrast to numerous and varied accounts from international relief organizations, the Myanmar junta praises U.N. aid.
On June 5, 2008, Amnesty International released a report saying that at least thirty people had been evicted from refugee camps. The report also indicated that the military was horse-trading aid for physical labour.
On 8 May 2008, about thirty protesters assembled before the Burmese embassy in Manila, Philippines, demanding that the junta defer voting on the referendum and immediately accept international relief. The Philippine protesters delivered the statement that "this time is not the time for politics, but it is the time to save people." The United States Government has also demanded that the United Nations not endorse the referendum. Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the Burmese opposition, also stated that holding a vote for the referendum during this disaster would be an consumedly unacceptable act. About 500 Myanmar activists demonstrated on 10 May outside their country's embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, demanding that Myanmar's military regime call off its constitutional referendum even as voting began despite a devastating cyclone.
In a public poll conducted throughout Myanmar on 9 May 2008 by Mizzima, a Burmese news agency, 64% of those surveyed still intended to vote in the referendum. However, 71% did not know what the constitution was, and 52% have not yet decided whether they will vote to support or oppose it.
More than a week after the disaster, only one out of 10 people who are homeless, injured or threatened by disease and hunger have received some kind of aid.. More than two weeks later, relief had only reached 25 percent of people in need.
Nine days after the cyclone, the military government was still refusing to grant visas and access for aid workers into the area. The UN has called for an air or sea corridor to be opened to channel large amounts of aid, and the HMS Westminster has been sent to the area, alongside French and United States military assets.
A Facebook.com page called Support the Relief Efforts for Burma (Myanmar) Cyclone Disaster Victims with 10,000 members used its members to organize a Global Day Of Action for Burma on May 17, 2008. with the help of Burma Global Action Network, Burma Campaign UK, Canadian Friends of Burma, the US Campaign for Burma, Info Birmanie, as well as countless local partners, a Global Day of Action for Burma a call for Humanitarian Intervention was held on May 17, 2008, in cities worldwide. An apparent response to Military Than Shwe and the junta's blockade of aid to the Cyclone Nargis aftermath victims, the international community called for a Humanitarian intervention to get aid into the hardest hit areas of Burma.
Nargis did set many records for its death toll, but Nargis also set other records. First, it was the only Category 4 storm to hit Burma in history at that strength. Second, when it reached Category 4 on the SSHS on May 2, it marked the only time that a Category 4 storm had formed in this basin for 3 consecutive years in a row (starting with 2006's Mala), going into 2007 with Sidr and Gonu, and ending with Nargis.
The exact death toll from Nargis will likely never be known for sure, but it was most likely one of the deadliest tropical cyclones worldwide in recorded history.
Ocean Preconditioning of Cyclone Nargis in the Bay of Bengal: Interaction between Rossby Waves, Surface Fresh Waters, and Sea Surface Temperatures*
Sep 01, 2011; ABSTRACT An in-depth data analysis was conducted to understand the occurrence of a strong sea surface temperature (SST) front in...
One Year after Cyclone Nargis and Sichuan Earthquake, Habitat for Humanity Rebuilding Projects are Well Underway in Myanmar and China.
May 07, 2009; Bangkok, May 7, 2009 - (ACN Newswire) - One year after Cyclone Nargis ripped through the Ayeyarwady delta in southwestern Myanmar...