Burma could have had a 72 hr warning about devastating cyclone

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Washington, May 8 : An analysis by Australian researchers has revealed that Burmese authorities could have had as much as 72 hours notice of the devastating Cyclone Nargis, which is now estimated to reach a death toll of about 100,000.

A report by ABC News has stated that the comments follow reports that many Burmese learned of the approaching cyclone from international media and the fact that Indian authorities warned Burma 48 hours before Nargis hit landfall.

According to Alan Sharp, manager of tropical cyclone warning services at Australia's Bureau of Meteorology in Melbourne, Burmese authorities would have had access to a number of publicly-accessible websites run by the US military and others that provide cyclone warnings.

"Generally, the forecasts will go out to about 72 hours," he said.

Australian natural hazards expert Dr Dale Dominey-Howes, from the University of New South Wales, has said that the actions of the Burmese junta would have played a critical role in the impact of the huge storm surge that the cyclone triggered.

"The junta has either failed to act or have been unable to act appropriately," he said. "There's been a catastrophic failure in the social, political, economic and response sectors," he added.

Available information could have been used to warn against the likelihood of a major storm surge, according to Sharp and Melbourne-based CSIRO storm surge expert Dr Katherine McInnes.

According to the BBC, reports on Burmese state television say warnings were issued on television and radio several days before the cyclone.

Yet people in Burma say the severity of the cyclone was unclear and no instructions were given as to what action they should take, adds the BBC.

Officials from the UN disaster reduction agency in Geneva have said that the size of the disaster suggests a lack of a proper early warning system.

According to Dominey-Howes, Burma's lack of experience with cyclones would have also contributed to the death toll as it has had not had such a disastrous cyclone for several decades.

"As a consequence, people have got no memory of a previous experience," he said.

In contrast to this situation, other low-lying countries in the region such as Bangladesh - in which cyclones killed half a million people in 1970 and 140,000 in 1991 - have learned from such experience, with the country now having a well developed cyclone warning system and elevated evacuation shelters.

ANI

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