U.S. Embassy Helps Americans in Burma Cyclone

Posted by Steve Royster
May 7, 2008
Map of Cyclone Nargis Path

About the Author: Steve Royster serves as the Spokesman for the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs.VIEW PHOTOSCyclone Nargis struck Burma this weekend with winds of 120 miles per hour lasting for 10 hours. The Category 4 storm left over 22,000 dead and widespread devastation in its wake.

When a crisis like this strikes around the world, the Department of State’s first thought is for the safety of American citizens. As the storm brewed offshore, colleagues at the American Embassy in Rangoon issued two messages to Americans in country with advice on how to prepare for Nargis.

When the storm hit on May 2, electricity and phone lines went down throughout the country, heightening the challenge of accounting for the hundreds of American citizens living in and visiting Burma. Embassy personnel communicated through radios, since mobile phone service was sporadic and unreliable. They contacted hotels and schools in rain-drenched efforts to locate Americans. Our staff told Americans how to find critical necessities -- food, fuel, water – and also had information on flight availability at the international airport, so citizens who wished to could leave Burma for safer, drier ground.

Colleagues at our Embassy in Rangoon, both American and Burmese, were watching out for Americans even as the cyclone was threatening their own homes. When we’re in the field, we all know that helping Americans is part of the job. That is especially clear during a crisis like Cyclone Nargis.

Crises like these are important reminders why Americans should register their travel abroad with the Department of State. When an emergency strikes, Americans in country, whether residents or visitors, who have registered can be contacted swiftly by the Embassy with information and other support for their safety. Registration also means you will receive notices and travel warnings prior to and during your trip.

Comments

Comments

Michael
May 7, 2008

Michael writes:

Nice job in Myanmar. You're doing a great job doing the things that the U.S. does best, but gets no credit for: Helping third world countries in their time of need. Keep it up.

Caroline
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Thailand
May 7, 2008

Caroline in Thailand writes:

My husband, a friend and I were in Rangoon as tourists when Nargis hit. On sunday May 4th we were informed by our hotel that people from the American Embassy had personally stopeed by to find out how many American Citizens were registered at the hotel and to see if the hotel had adequate water and food supplies. We were given a contact number for the embassy should we require any futher information or assistance.

I later called the contact number to see if there was any information regarding the airport re-opening and flights out of the country. The phone was answered immediately and I was given the information and advise I was looking for. As a result we were able to fly out of Rangoon on Monday morning.

Given the extent of the crisis and the challenging logistics of Burma. I was impressed and proud that the U.S. Embassy went to such legnths to ensure safety and comfort of American citizens.

Eric
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New Mexico, USA
May 8, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ DipNote Blogger Steve Royster -- I fail to understand why the government of Burma has seemed to be unwilling to allow aid to flow.

In present circumstance, the sovereignty of a nation is secondary to that of a global responsibility to protect populations, if that government cannot or is unwilling to.

Lot of folks (upwards of a million or more) are homeless. 100,000 dead, unknown total injured.

What's the possibility of a visa waiver (visa application - post arrival) for survivors on an international level to get them out of harm's way and provide shelter and the basics? Or how would current U.S. policies approach such a task in this context?

As I see it, the local infrastructure can't cope with the displaced, regardless if the regime were doing back flips to help render assistance.

If the international community is willing to open its doors wide to those willing to leave Burma, upon realizing that Burma has lost over 60% of its cropland for a number of years and the nation can no longer support the surviving population over an extended period of recovery and land reclamation; Then deeds will match words spoken in acceptance of "responsibility to protect" at the 2005 UNGA.

There's no doubt in my mind Steve, that as understaffed as State is to meet a changing world, you've all met it very well. Above and beyond the call...

JOE
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Tennessee, USA
May 8, 2008

Joe in Tennessee writes:

This is difficult. I'd like to say we need to be dropping Units- M16a and gear- rather than food so the people can dispose of their leadership and start their own democracy.

These little Hitters continue to ruin lives by the millions all over the world, with or without natures help.

They limited the intake of AID until they could distribute the foodstuffs and medical supplies to show THEY CARE and are in CONTROL which sends the wrong message in actuality as it creates reinforcement of their leadership roles.

Eric
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New Mexico, USA
May 12, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

Press report below indicates that the U.S. is considering air drop relief regardless of what the regime thinks about it.
http://english.dvb.no/news.php?id=1217

I say go for it! Bomb them with food, and send in the Navy for a little humanitarian "gunboat diplomacy".

If the regime has a problem with that, then implement Joe's option...but I think in a week or so the regime will see and understand the fact that mother nature has terminated their ability to govern.

Ronald
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New York, USA
May 9, 2008

Ronald in New York writes:

Pre-Nargis Plan. The devastating cyclone in Myanmar (Burma) highlights the importance of the establishment of global cooperation PRIOR to humanitarian crises. Providing proactive humanitarian aid can set the stage for a more cooperative and welcoming response by isolated regimes.

JOE
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Tennessee, USA
May 9, 2008

Joe in Tennessee writes:

There is also the possibility that all Intel concerning the use of Burma for terrorist training camps and arms holding may be valid.

Why would the leadership there want to help anyway? It is simply more mouths to feed they cannot afford as it is. For them, the long this goes on and the more that die, the better.

I would also like to suggest: Why not simply drop some food with banners and leaflets that say: The World Cares. Even if we or the UN has to use escorted flights and actually use military power in Defense. They have no real government per se. What could they do if food was dropped all over Burma?

How is that a violation of law - Violation of Air Space for feeding destitute citizens?

Maybe this is an opportunity for the UN to show it DOES care before there are massive deaths.

halona
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India
May 10, 2008

Halona in India writes:

UN officials estimated some 1 million people had been left homeless in Myanmar. Some aid workers said heavily flooded areas were accessible only by boat, with helicopters unable to find dry spots for landing relief supplies.Many people are getting sick. The whole place is under salt water and there is nothing to drink. President Bush said the U.S. was ready to deliver aid. I have donated U.S. $ 50 (small for sure ) to the Red Cross collected through sales of digital products through my http://www.edogo.com website. It's really heart rendering to see loss of thousands of innocent lives to this natural disaster.

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