Cyclone Nargis Case Study Responses To Weak

Cyclone Nargis

Background to the scale of the impact of Cyclone Nargis:

–       Cyclone Nargis was a strong tropical cyclone that caused the worst natural disaster in the recorded history of Burma.

–       It began as an intense tropical depression on April 27th 2008 in the Bay of Bengal.

–       Meteorologists initially thought that the storm would track over Bangladesh

–       However, the storm changed direction and headed towards Burma, where it made land over the Irrawaddy delta in the south of the country on May 2nd.

–       It had intensified into a category 3/4 storm on the Simpson–Saffir scale

–       215 km/hr winds

–       In some places 600mm of rain fell

–       146000 people were killed, or reported missing

–       $10 million damage occurred

–       75% of hospitals and clinics were badly destroyed or damaged

–       Diarrhoea, dysentery and skin infections afflicted the survivors who were crammed into monasteries, schools and other buildings after arriving in towns already under pressure before the cyclone.

Human Factors

–       Burma has a very low level of development

–       Low levels of education

–       39% never enrol in primary education; there has also been a decline in spending in education.

–       Burma’s military government (referred to as a junta) declined international aid for several days, in attempts to try and handle the situation on there own.

–        On May 6th they accepted aid only from specific countries such as India and Bangladesh, yet only for restricted items and it was not until 10 days later that 50 Indian medical workers were accepted.

–       Many other nations and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) hoping to deliver relief were unable to do so.

–       The World Food Programme (WFP) stated that the delays were ‘unprecedented in modern humanitarian relief efforts’.

–       More than two weeks after the storm, relief had only reached 25% of the population.

–       Many Burmese people were displeased with the government as they had not provided an appropriate warning system for the cyclone, despite having been informed by Indian meteorologists 48 hours prior to its arrival.

–       More than two weeks after the storm, relief had only reached 25% of the population

–       It was the Burmese government’s response – or lack of it – that caused widespread disbelief and condemnation around the world.

Physical Factors

–       Burma lies between the Tropic of Cancer and the Equator. It’s in the monsoon region of Asia, with its coastal regions receiving over 5,000 mm (196.9 in) of rain annually.

–       Annual rainfall in the delta region is approximately 2,500 mm (98.4 in), while average annual rainfall in the Dry Zone, which is located in central Burma, is less than 1,000 mm (39.4 in).

–       The Irrawaddy delta in Burma was the worst hit area. The delta contains 7 million of the country’s 53 million people, with nearly 2 million of these living on land that is less than 5m above sea level, ithas a population density of 100/km2, leaving them extremely vulnerable. Some towns lost 90% of their homes, with 70% of their population dead or missing.

–       The agricultural land is very fertile, being regarded as the nation’s ‘rice bowl’, and hence any damage to it would affect the whole country.

–       10,000 people had been killed by the sea surge due to its coastal area.

–       Labutta, a small town in the south west of the delta region was devastated with 50% of houses being destroyed.

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Storm development and background

Cycone Nargis struck in May 2008 and caused huge devastation in the military dictatorship of (formerly known as ).  The tropical system developed from a low pressure system in the during the last week of April. Early on 27 April, The India Meteorological Department (IMD) declared the system had strengthened to a tropical depression on the 27th of April, about 748 km (465 mi) east-southeast of . The depression slowly moved north-northwest at about 11 km/h (7 mph) as convective banding around its center increased. On 28 April, the system was centered 547 kilometers (340 miles) east of and the IMD upgraded the storm to a cyclone, Nargis. This is the equivalent of a Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.  By the morning of 29 April, the cyclone had winds of 161 km/h (100 mph), making it equivalent to a Category 2 hurricane or a very severe cyclonic storm, as regarded by the IMD. It then decreased in strength, only to rapidly intensify on May the 1st and track eastward, returning to cyclone status. By 2 May, the cyclone reached its peak status with winds of 217 km/h (135 mph) (equivalent to a Category 4 hurricane). Cyclone Nargis made landfall in southwest on 2 May, near the town of in the Ayeyarwady Division. The storm moved inland, but remained along the coast of the Irrawaddy Delta, which prevented the rapid weakening traditionally exhibited by cyclones as they moved over land, this didn’t happen until the 3rd of May.


Economic Impacts

Environmental Impacts

Social Impacts

$10 billion worth of damage

Majority of the population worked on the flooded rice fields therefore they lost their harvest and income

75% of buildings collapsed but on the delta 95% collapsed

1,163 temples were destroyed

Rice fields were flooded on the Delta

The 2008 and 2009 harvests of rice were destroyed - The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) estimated that Nargis impacted 65% of the country's paddies.

Strong winds up to 135mph

• Storm surge of 7.6m

• Heavy rainfall

Floodwaters penetrated an estimated 40-50 km (24-31 mi) inland from the coast. Farmland, livestock, and fisheries were all destroyed.

There was a lack of food, water for survivors

Many children were orphaned

Diseases spread with many survivors dying from disease

50,000 people are still missing

A death toil of at least 138 000 people has been quoted, but estimates vary widely, it is thought that 80,000 people could have died in the town of Labutta alone, making the 84,000people death toll seem unrealistic

It is estimated that at least 2.4 million people were severely affected by this cyclone. Structural damage throughout was extensive, causing over a million to become homeless after the event.


Initially the response of the Military government was appalling.  The military Junta did not want foreign people coming into the country and destabilising their political oppression, so they refused aid despite the scale of the disaster.  A full 6 days after the storm made landfall and with the government woefully underprepared and unable to cope, the government representation from the formally asked the United Nations (UN) for help.

Even then, the government did not endorse international aid and placed harsh restrictions on even the most basic forms of assistance. It was not until 9 May, a full week after the cyclone made landfall, that the Junta finally gave into international pressure to accept outside aid. However, this aid was limited to food, medicine and basic supplies, and foreign aid workers remained banned from the country.

Finally, on 19 May, granted members of the Association of South-East Asian Nations admittance into the country to deliver aid. After negotiations between Ban and the Myanmar head of state, Than Shwe, it was declared on 23 May that other international aid workers would be let into the country - a full 3 weeks after the cyclone struck.

Responses were largely from international organisation and through international aid.

• Italian flights were allowed to enter on 7th May to bring food supplies.

• – emergency aid and aid workers used to dealing with cyclones.

• Indian navy and air force supplied 140 tonnes of tents, blankets and medicines. On 8th May they also sent 50 medical personnel and set up 2 mini hospitals.

• sent US$100,000 in supplies including thirty tonnes of medical supplies and twelve tonnes of food supplies from Thai Red Cross.

• The gave ₤17 million of aid (approx US$33.5 million) and sent an international relief team to help with the co-ordination of the international relief effort.

• The donated US$41,169,769 to the relief effort, including help from the American Red Cross.

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