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Refresher Training of CERT by FOCUS

Saturday, May 31, 2008

World Bank offers $1.2bn food aid


The World Bank's managing director says the funds will be made available shortly

The World Bank is to offer immediate financial help to countries worst hit by sharp rises in food prices as part of a $1.2bn (£608m) assistance package.

Grants worth a total of $200m are being set aside for "high priority" countries most at risk from acute hunger.

Haiti and Liberia will get $10m each to feed their most vulnerable people while Djibouti will receive $5m.

The World Bank says 100 million people could be impoverished by the rising cost and scarcer availability of food.

It has also identified Togo, Yemen and Tajikistan as being in need of immediate assistance following recent needs assessments.

'Immediate danger'

"It is crucial that we focus on specific action," said World Bank president Robert Zoellick.

Robert Zoellick
We just have to make sure we get the resources and coordinate the operations around the world
Robert Zoellick

"These initiatives will help address the immediate danger of hunger and malnutrition for the two billion people struggling to survive in the face of rising food prices."

Countries will be able to access money to provide food for schools and other core services as well as to buy essential items such as seeds and fertilizer.

The BBC's Kim Ghattas in Washington says the money is part of a fast track programme to address immediate requirements in the global food crisis.

Some of it will be used to handle immediate humanitarian needs, for example for pregnant woman and young children.

The World Bank will also devote an additional $2bn next year to funding agricultural projects, including crop insurance schemes.

Mr Zoellick said: "This is not an issue like HIV/Aids where you need some research breakthrough. People know what to do.

"We just have to make sure we get the resources and coordinate the operations around the world."

A United Nations report published on Thursday warned that prices for key staples such as wheat and beef could remain inflated for many years.

A world food summit is scheduled to be held in Rome from 3-5 June.

On Friday, representatives from 26 Latin American and Caribbean countries will also meet in Caracas, Venezuela, to discuss concerns over the rising cost of food.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Health - Important Tips

Answer the phone by LEFT ear.
Do not drink coffee TWICE a day.
Do not take pills with
COOL water.
Do not have HUGE meals after 5pm.
Reduce the amount of
OILY food you consume.
Drink more
WATER in the morning, less at night.
Keep your distance from hand phone
CHARGERS.
Do not use headphones/earphone for LONG period of time.
Best sleeping time is from
10pm at night to 6am in the morning.
Do not lie down immediately after taking
medicine before sleeping.
When battery is down to the
LAST grid/bar, do not answer the phone as the radiation is 1000 times.

Forward this to those whom you CARE about

Sunday, May 25, 2008

STROKE: Remember The 1st Three Letters.... S.T.R.

STROKE: Remember The 1st Three Letters.... S.T.R.







My nurse friend sent this and encouraged me to
post it and spread the word. I agree.

If everyone can remember something this simple,
we could save some folks. Seriously..

Please read:

STROKE IDENTIFICATION:

During a BBQ, a friend stumbled and took a little fall,
she assured everyone that she was ! fine (they offered
to call paramedics) .....she said she had just tripped
over a brick because of her new shoes.

They got her cleaned up and got her a new plate of
food. While she appeared a bit shaken up, Ingrid went
about enjoying herself the rest of the evening.

Ingrid's husband called later telling everyone that his
wife had been taken to the hospital - (at 6:00 PM Ingrid
passed away.) She had suffered a stroke at the BBQ.
Had they known how to identify the signs of a stroke,
perhaps Ingrid would be with us today. Some don't die,
they end up in a helpless, hopeless condition instead.

It only takes a minute to read this...

A neurologist says that if he can get to a stroke victim
within 3 hours he can totally reverse the effects of a
stroke... totally . He said the trick was getting a stroke
recognized, diagnosed, and then getting the patient
medically cared for within 3 hours, which is tough.

RECOGNIZING A STROKE
Thank God for the sense to remember the
'3' steps, STR . Read and Learn!

Sometimes symptoms of a stroke are difficult to identify.
Unfortunately, the lack of awareness spells disaster. The
stroke victim may suffer severe brain damage when
people nearby fail to recognize the symptoms of a stroke



Now doctors say a bystander can recognize a stroke
by asking three simple questions:

S * Ask the individual to SMILE.
T * Ask the person to TALK and SPEAK A SIMPLE SENTENCE
(Coherently) i.e. It is sunny out today)
R * Ask him or her to RAISE BOTH ARMS.

If he or she has trouble with ANY ONE of these tasks,
call 999/911 immediately and describe the
symptoms to the dispatcher.

New Sign of a Stroke ------- ! ;Stick out Your Tongue

NOTE: Another 'sign' of a stroke is this: Ask the person
to 'stick' out his tongue.. If the tongue is 'crooked',
if it goes to one side or the other
, that is also an
indication of a stroke.

A cardiologist says if everyone who gets this
e-mail sends it to 10 people; you can bet that
at least one life will be saved.

Mock disaster drill at Kolkata Metro stations



An exercise, in the wake of Jaipur blasts, to fine-tune the response system while alerting passengers
— Photo: Arunangsu Roy Chowdhury

SIMULATED ATTACK: A team of the National Disaster Management Authority, with fire brigade, medical and Railway Police Force personnel, demonstrating how to combat a terrorist attack, at the Chandni Chowk Metro Rail station in Kolkata on Saturday.

KOLKATA: Sirens blared; passengers ran helter-skelter, panic writ on their faces; people lay on the ground writhing in pain and gasping for breath; police shouted eviction orders; medical staff rushed through the crowd with stretchers; and commandos took positions behind pillars, aiming their rifles at an unknown enemy.

This was the scene at the Chandni Chowk station of the city's Metro Railway early on Saturday. It was no terrorist attack but a mock disaster management drill organised by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) at two underground railway stations. The exercise caught commuters unawares, even as volunteers as 'mock commuters' mingled with the passengers to simulate an attack scene at the stations.

Later talking to journalists, NDMA member J.K. Sinha said: "Following the serial blasts in Jaipur, we have undertaken mock drill sessions to fine-tune the response system while alerting passengers." Such drills were conducted to check the preparedness of the state machinery, in the event of a terrorist attack.

"It is the first of its kind in this city," said Brigadier (retd.) B.K. Khanna, senior specialist with the NDMA. Similar drills carried out in the Delhi Metro Railway Network, in association with the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), "garnered tremendous public response."

The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), the Railway Police Force and the Kolkata Fire Brigade assisted the NDMA in the drill.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

China disaster zone covers area as large as half of England


A local man looks for loved ones amongst the smoldering ruins of Beichuan

(Michael Reynolds/EPA)

A local looks for loved ones amongst Beichuan's smouldering ruins

Imagine half of England, from Lands End to Leicester, wiped out and every resident of Britain's five largest cities homeless, injured or dead. Imagine one in four of the country's schools destroyed – with the children still inside.

This is the extent of the disaster in southwest China. The numbers and figures are so vast as to be almost incomprehensible.

When the 8.0-magnitude earthquake struck last Monday, it turned an area of 65,000 square kilometres, exactly half the size of England, on its head.

It sent the heavy walls of homes, hospitals, shops, workplaces and around 7,000 schools in Sichuan province crashing down on those inside. If the same scale of destruction had happened in Britain, almost one quarter of the country's school buildings would have collapsed.

Ten million people - the equivalent of every single person living in London, Birmingham, Glasgow, Liverpool and Leeds - were directly affected, and half of them were left homeless. Around 70,000 people - the entire population of Guildford - have died.

In the aftermath, a legion of rescue workers numbering thousands more than the British Army and an air force more than twice the size of the RAF rushed in to pick up the pieces. But it was not until eight days after the quake that the rescuers were finally able to make their way along the battered roads of Sichuan province to all of the 3,669 affected villages.

The journey to one mountain village of 87 residents, Maliuping, saw 37 landslides over the course of a 32-kilometre trek. The village lay 1,200 metres above sea level, just 144 metres lower than the summit of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Britain.

More than 37,000 medical staff, a number roughly equal to every family doctor in the UK, are working round the clock to treat the 250,000 injured.

Material and monetary aid has poured in. Donations from China and abroad have topped 10.834 billion yuan, or £795 million. That amounts to the Gross Domestic Product of Sierra Leone.

In the past week, more than 1.78 million items of clothing and 784,000 blankets have been distributed along with almost 274 million tonnes of cooking oil, petrol and diesel – enough oil to keep the whole of the UK going for almost half a year. Factories across the country are working triple shifts to produce an extra three million tents for the homeless.

But the task at hand is just as daunting as the numbers.

The more than 41,000 confirmed dead must be buried, many in mass graves dug into the hillsides and often still unidentified. The more than 30,000 people still missing must be retrieved from the depths of the debris amid a stench so putrid that even the sniffer dogs are struggling. And along with homes, roads and schools, millions of lives must be rebuilt.

I salute you, Chinese brothers and sisters. You are all so brave and strong in facing this huge disaster. Your leaders will not give up. Your rescuers will not give up. Incredibly the trapped will not give up. More lives will be saved. More miracles will happen. Thats d way. Go China,never give up

Lim, Johor Bahru, Malaysia

May the departed rest in peace, may the survivors recover fast.

Leon, tianjin, china

It's a very good article for people in UK to understand how horrible the disaster is. Hopefully more kind people will help those who are suffering in earthquake.

Linda, Lincoln,

Yes.China' stood up!
We Chinese are all doing their best to help the victims.
We will overcome!

gg., Zhejiang, China

Yes,it is the most disastrous demage ever happened in China after our independence. We are all shocked, in deep sorrow.But I believe under the unity of the whole nation, we can overcome this disaster, just like the SASK in 2002.
Come on ,China!

Kim, zhuji, China

For the last two months, this is for me as a chinese a sensible article i come across in this worldly rekowned newspaper.I must say that i was annoyed by the biased reports of some of the western media.Sense and sesibility was a UK trait in Austine time, I hope it could well reflect today's UK trait

shenqi, Beijing,

Sichuan went down, China stood up. For the last 20 years, of all the natural calamities - Katrina, tsunami, Kansai earthquake etc; no government had responded so quickly as the Chinese, no rescuers had given more blood sweat and tears to a shaken region as the Chinese. An impossible task well done.

sunny, Hong Kong SAR, China



FOCUS News Update

FOCUS Humanitarian Assistance




FOCUS News Update
Spring 2008

 

 

FOCUS provided relief to families in Qumsangir in the province of Khatlon, southern Tajikistan in early March 2008.
   

Responding to winter crisis in Tajikistan
The onset of severe winter conditions resulted in many communities across Tajikistan losing their electricity supply. FOCUS, with the support of the German Embassy in Tajikistan and in collaboration with the Committee of Emergency Situations and Civil Defence, provided relief to families in Qumsangir in the province of Khatlon, southern Tajikistan in early March 2008.

Stocks of heating materials and high nutrition food items were provided to more than one hundred families, many of whom are still in a process of rehabilitation since the devastating earthquakes of winter 2006. Almost a thousand homes were completely destroyed and 1,440 were partially damaged. A large number of these homes have not yet been reconstructed, consequently, many families are living in conditions of extreme cold with limited food.

This relief effort was coordinated in conjunction with a wider relief operation being implemented throughout Tajikistan, by other aid agencies to support communities affected by the winter crisis.

Meanwhile, a collaborative effort between the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and FOCUS also enabled the provision of relief to over 40 Afghan families living in the suburbs of Dushanbe, Vahdat and Kurgan-teppa, who were affected by the severe winter and ongoing electricity shortages.

Community based disaster risk management training in Gilgit

 
The workshops aimed to strengthen local community skills by covering a range of technical educational sessions.

Sixteen Master Trainers attended the first FOCUS community based disaster reduction management Training of Trainers workshop, in Gilgit, northern Pakistan between 19th February and 1st March 2008. The workshops aimed to strengthen local community skills by covering a range of technical educational sessions including basic search and rescue, fire fighting, resource mobilisation and first aid techniques; the last of which were led by the Pakistan Red Crescent. These Master Trainers are now equipped to conduct localised disaster reduction management training in their regions. Local village and community leaders were also among those who participated in the training, enabling them to be integral stakeholders of local disaster resilience programmes.
   
 
  FOCUS organised the first in
a series of consultative meetings for major stakeholders involved in
Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR).

First consultative meeting on risk reduction in Gujarat's schools
In February 2008, FOCUS organised the first in a series of consultative meetings for major stakeholders involved in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) in schools in Gujarat. The meeting marked the establishment of a 'partnership of learning' for school-based DRR projects by enabling the sharing of methodologies and processes. Representatives from Oxfam, SEEDS, Handicap International, the Gujarat State Education Board and the Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority were among the participants.

FOCUS presented the processes and tools it had developed under its school safety project funded by European Commission Humanitarian Aid Office.
At the end of the meeting, Oxfam expressed its interest in replicating the FOCUS model on a pilot basis within its own preparedness programme in Gujarat.

 
An assessment was conducted to determine the level of food insecurity and affects of the severe winter conditions in communities in the Shikai district of Badakhshan.
   

Assessing food insecurity in Shikai, Badakhshan, Afghanistan
In February 2008, FOCUS conducted an assessment to determine the level of food insecurity and affects of the severe winter conditions in communities in the Shikai district of Badakhshan.

Due to the cold weather and frequent onset of avalanches, the FOCUS team were unable to access all the border villages but were able to meet village representatives in nearby locations. A detailed assessment by FOCUS resulted in a collaborative distribution effort of food and medicines by the Badakhshan Governor's Office, the United Nations World Food Programme and other regional aid agencies.

 


Hosting training at the Centre of Competence for Disaster Reduction in Dushanbe

 
  Training of Trainers' workshop aimed to prepared individuals to conduct basic disaster awareness training in their own organisations.
With the support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, and the Centre of Competence for Disaster Reduction, FOCUS organised a Training of Trainers (ToT) workshop in February 2008, Dushanbe. The workshop aimed to prepared individuals to conduct basic disaster awareness training in their own organisations. Participants included representatives of local NGOs, officials from the Tajik Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education and Committee of Emergency Situations and Civil Defence. This initiative seeks to build on the previous accomplishments of the Central Asia Region Earthquake Safety Initiative (CARESI) Projects by improving the ability of individuals to prepare for and respond to natural disasters. The CARESI Projects focus on reducing community vulnerability to earthquakes in the Central Asian region through community-based disaster preparedness and mitigation modules.

FOCUS continued specialist training for Tajikistani's state geology department between 24 December 2007 and 9 January 2008.

 
A collaborative effort by Aga Khan University Hospital, Kenya Red Cross Society and the Kenyan Ministry of Health, resulted in the provision of healthcare through an emergency measles vaccination programme.
   

Facilitating a relief assessment in Nairobi
In December 2007, FOCUS assisted in a humanitarian needs assessment in Kenya. The assessment was conducted as a result of the effects of conflict following controversy during the national elections. During the crisis, over 1,000 people died and 300,000 were displaced. A collaborative effort by
Aga Khan University Hospital, Kenya Red Cross Society and the Kenyan Ministry of Health, resulted in the provision of healthcare through an emergency measles vaccination programme.

This extended programme was aimed at the significantly high numbers of children in the central camp at the Jamhuri showground on the outskirts of Nairobi, which housed 6,000 internally displaced persons in total. For a period of about three weeks towards the end of January, Aga Khan Education Services (AKES) sent teachers to a displaced persons camp in Limuru to provide educational and recreational activities for children.

As part of this effort, AKES also donated food, exercise books as well as textbooks during the intervention. In addition, children and staff at AKES schools raised Kshs 1.27 million ($20,000) for donation to the Kenya Red Cross and UNICEF for their ongoing programmes to assist internally displaced persons.

   
 
  The province of Chitral was
badly affected by a number of
natural hazards including heavy
snow and avalanches.

Providing relief in Chitral
The province of Chitral was badly affected by a number of natural hazards including heavy snow and avalanches. Communities suffered through loss of lives and damage to homes and crops. FOCUS, alongside agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network government and the Ismaili National Council provided immediate food and fuel and other humanitarian relief items to affected families for the winter months ahead. In December 2007, FOCUS in collaboration with Aga Khan Social Welfare Board and the Ismaili Councils for Upper and Lower Chitral, conducted a relief assessment which resulted in the distribution of winter materials and humanitarian relief for more than 260 severely affected families living in Sonoghore, Wasich and Garmchashma, all in the district of Chitral, North West Frontier Province.





Sunday, May 18, 2008

China begins mourning as toll mounts

BEIJING, China (CNN) -- China on Monday began three days of national mourning as the death toll from last week's devastating earthquake mounted and rescue workers continued to search for survivors among the rubble.

art.grieves.ap.jpg

A woman grieves for her lost mother in Beichuan, in China's southwest Sichuan province.

The national flag was lowered to half staff at 4:58 a.m. at Beijing's Tiananmen Square as 2,600 people watched the ceremony, state-run media reported.

By Sunday evening, the official death toll rose to 32,477, according to state-run media Sunday. Another 220,109 were wounded in the major quake, the Xinhua news agency said.

Few hopeful relatives were seen in Beichuan, near the quake's epicenter, with soldiers finding many more bodies among the ruins of buildings, The Associated Press reported. Aid teams sprinkled lime on the bodies and disinfected the area.

One bit of bright news came Monday: Two women were rescued after being trapped for nearly one week, Xinhua reported.

The two were found in the rubble of a collapsed building at a coal mine in Sichuan province, Xinhua reported.

Wu Hai, a rescue team leader from neighboring Yunnan province, said bodies were decomposing and "many of the limbs are broken off."

"There are definitely many more here. Locals here said several thousands have been buried here," he told The Associated Press.

But there were a few tales of rescues even six days after the disaster: at least 64 people have been pulled alive from debris.

A 53-year-old man was rescued in Yingxiu town in Wenchuan county near the epicenter 148 hours after the quake, Xinhua said Sunday. The effort took eight hours, the news agency said.

Several others were rescued Saturday by Chinese soldiers, their hands stained with blood from days of digging. More than 4,000 troops were sent to the disaster areas in Wenchuan.

Chinese officials said the three-day period of mourning will begin at 2:28 p.m on Monday, exactly one week after the quake struck the southwestern Sichuan province.

During that mourning period, the Olympic torch relay will be suspended, China's state-run television announced. The torch was going to be in the eastern cities of Ningbo and Jiaxing in Zhejiang Province on Monday, then in Shanghai on Tuesday and Wednesday.

China's state-run news agency Sunday announced that it increased the magnitude of the quake from 7.8 to 8.0. The U.S. Geological Survey measured the temblor at 7.9, which CNN has been reporting. The USGS figure remains unchanged as of Sunday.

The World Health Organization says it fears outbreaks of disease and urged quick action to supply clean water and proper hygiene facilities.

"Ensuring supply of food and safe drinking water and trying to restore good sanitation are critical because these are basic transmission routes for communicable diseases," Hans Troedsson, WHO's representative to China, told AP.

Chinese health officials have not reported any disaster-related outbreaks so far.

So far, almost 60 aid organizations from 13 countries were assisting in the aftermath of the quake. Among the countries are India, France, Singapore, the Philippines and the United States.

Two U.S. military planes landed in Chengdu Sunday with blankets, water and other relief supplies.

The first plane -- a C-17 cargo jet -- flew from a U.S. base in Hawaii, while the second flight came from Alaska, officials said. Video Watch as U.S. aid arrives in China »

Early Sunday, a strong aftershock rattled areas, while fears of flash flooding and landslides hindered rescue efforts.

Sunday's 5.7-magnitude aftershock shook the region near the border of Sichuan and Gansu provinces just after 1 a.m., the U.S. Geological Survey said.

Just hours earlier, concerns over a damaged dam and rising water levels at two lakes triggered the mass evacuation of 30,000 people -- including rescuers and journalists -- in at least 10 villages and townships, Chinese officials said.

People down-river from the quake-damaged Kuzhu dam in Beichuan county were ordered to leave the area Saturday afternoon over fears it might burst, according to Xinhua.

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The two lakes were created when Monday's quake caused landslides that blocked the Qingjiang River in Qingchuan county. Both bodies of water have fast-rising water levels, prompting concerns of flooding, an official at the Guangyuan disaster relief center said.

Monday's quake was the worst tremor to strike China in three decades; a 1976 earthquake killed more than 250,000 people.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Earthquake in China Highlights the Vulnerability of Schools in Many Countries


Quake Toll Rises; China Struggles to Reach Victims (May 14, 2008)

  (May 14, 2008)

CCTV, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Prime Minister Wen Jiabao consoled quake victims in Deyang County. Such images of Mr. Wen have dominated the airwaves.

While such scenes are a staple of catastrophes in much of the world, the rescue effort playing nonstop on Chinese television is remarkable for a country that has a history of concealing the scope of natural calamities and then bungling its response.

Since an earthquake flattened a swath of rural Sichuan Province on Monday, killing nearly 15,000 people, the government in Beijing has mounted an aggressive rescue effort, dispatching tens of thousands of troops and promptly sending Prime Minister Wen Jiabao to the disaster zone, accompanied by reporters.

A hard hat on his head and a bullhorn in hand, he ducked into the wreckage of a hospital where scores of people were buried and shouted: "Hang on a bit longer. The troops are rescuing you." Throughout the day, the images of Mr. Wen directing disaster relief officials and comforting the injured dominated the airwaves.



Monday, May 12, 2008

Thousands killed by huge China quake

BEIJING, China (CNN) -- Thousands of people have been killed by Monday's powerful earthquake in just one affected region of central China, its government said, with the toll expected to keep rising as bodies are retrieved from schools, homes and factories.

art.faint.ap.jpg

Students help a fainted classmate in Qionglai city in southwest China's Sichuan province.

The Chinese government said at least 8,600 people were dead, but that the death toll was sure to rise as authorities began to reach some of the worst-hit areas. Thousnads more were believed to be injured.

Xinhua, the state-run news agency, reported that authorities were yet to reach Wenchuan County -- which sits at the epicenter of the 7.9-magnitude earthquake with a population of about 112,000 -- because of damage to roads.

In Beichuan County, close to Wenchuan, the number of deaths was estimated at more than 3,000, with 80 percent of the buildings destroyed. Video Watch as the death toll rises »

In addition, at least 48 people were killed in the northwest Gansu Province, Xinhua said.

Several hundred students were also feared to be buried in collapsed school buildings, the agency said.

China's Seismological Bureau said the earthquake had affected more than half the country's provinces and municipalities.

U.S. President George W. Bush released a statement saying his country "stands ready to help in any way possible."

"I am particularly saddened by the number of students and children affected by this tragedy," Bush said.

China's government is releasing $2.89 million to respond to the disaster, Xinhua reported. China's Red Cross has dispatched 557 tents, 2,500 quilts and other aid to the disaster zone, Chinese television reported. Impact your world

The state relief disaster commission declared a level-two emergency, the second-highest level out of four, to cope with the aftermath of the quake, Chinese television reported.

In Sichuan's Shifang city, the quake buried hundreds of people in two collapsed chemical plants, and more than 80 tons of ammonia leaked out, Xinhua said.

The local government evacuated 6,000 civilians from the area after homes and factories were also destroyed


Friday, May 9, 2008

TN okays emergency management services

R.Y. Narayanan

Coimbatore, May 9 The Tamil Nadu Government has approved the establishment of Emergency Management Services (EMS) in the State and for its implementation, a memorandum of understanding will be signed with Emergency Management Research Institute (EMRI), Hyderabad.

Initially, 198 ambulances under Phase II of the Tamil Nadu Health Systems Project will be placed at the disposal of EMRI for providing EMS in 14 districts, and services will be extended to other districts in a phased manner.

One of the salient features of the proposal is that the service is offered free of cost. The State Government has sanctioned Rs 36.02 crore towards the establishment of 24-hour EMS during 2008-09 that included recurring and non-recurring expenditure.

Mr V.K. Subburaj, Secretary, Health and Family Welfare, in a Government Order issued on May 5, said an "efficient emergency management service can play a crucial role in saving precious lives of pregnant women, women in labour, victims of road accidents, etc".

Already, 187 ambulances with medical equipment were purchased and supplied to 15 districts through the World Bank-aided Tamil Nadu Health Systems Project that are being operated through 146 NGOs in 15 districts since January 1, 2007.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Myanmar Cyclone Death Toll Reaches 10,000

Myanmar Cyclone Death Toll Reaches 10,000, Junta Says (Update1)

By Demian McLean and Michael Heath

May 6 (Bloomberg) -- The death toll from the tropical cyclone that slammed into Myanmar three days ago rose to 10,000, according to the military government, making the storm Southeast Asia's deadliest natural disaster since the 2004 tsunami.

About 3,000 people are missing in the Irrawaddy delta region alone, Myanmar government ministers told international diplomats yesterday, the United Nations news agency IRIN said.

Power was knocked out in the former capital, Yangon, and drinking water was contaminated in the city of 5 million people. ``At least eight townships are completely or mostly destroyed,'' said Pamela Sitko, a worker with the U.S.-based Christian relief group World Vision, who has spoken with colleagues in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.

The U.S. yesterday offered an initial $250,000 in aid to the country, which is among the world's least-developed, while castigating its military leadership for failing to alert citizens to the approaching cyclone.

``Although they were aware of the threat, Burma's state-run media failed to issue a timely warning to citizens in the storm's path,'' First Lady Laura Bush said from the White House.

Death Toll

The death toll would be the worst since a 9.1 magnitude earthquake offshore from Aceh on Indonesia's Sumatra in December 2004 caused a tsunami that swept across the Indian Ocean, devastating coastal communities and leaving more than 220,000 people dead or missing in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand and other countries.

``The UN will do whatever it can to provide urgent humanitarian assistance,'' Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters in New York. ``Because of the lack of communications, we are not quite sure what will be the total extent of damages and casualties. I am very much alarmed by incoming views that casualties have risen to more than 10,000, according to Myanmar's Foreign Ministry.''

Cyclone Nargis packed winds of 120 miles (190 kilometers) per hour when it struck the coast May 3, sending the sea surging as much 12 feet (3.5 meters).

State of Emergency

The government declared a state of emergency in five low- lying provinces, mostly in the rice-growing Irrawaddy delta, where villages were flattened by winds and rain, the UN said. Myanmar has a population of 47.8 million.

``The water supply is unfit to drink in the aftermath of the destruction, raising fears of water-borne diseases'' in Yangon, IRIN reported.

A UN disaster-assessment team was dispatched to Bangkok, and the world body is prepared to provide a grant from the $500 million Central Emergency Response Fund, created to rush aid to nations in need, spokesman Farhan Haq said.

The UN Children's Fund and its Development Program, which have offices in Myanmar, stockpiled food, water and medicine before the storm. They will distribute water-purification tablets, plastic sheeting, food and cooking sets in Yangon and the delta region.

Flooding, blocked roads and disrupted communications are hampering efforts to assess the extent of the damage, according to the world body.

International Assistance

The junta has requested international assistance and UN officials are engaged in talks with Myanmar authorities on how best to help, IRIN cited Richard Horsey of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs as saying.

``Discussions are taking place in New York and on the ground about what is needed,'' he said.

The price of food surged after the cyclone struck, according to the Irrawaddy newspaper, which is published by Myanmar dissidents in neighboring Thailand. An egg now costs between 200 and 250 kyat (20 cents) in Yangon versus 50-70 kyat before the storm, while one viss (1.6 kilograms) of pork is between 8,000 and 8,500 kyat, compared with 4,500 to 5,000.

Myanmar is regularly hit by cyclones that form in the Bay of Bengal between April and November. Nargis struck as Myanmar, which has been ruled by the military since 1962, prepares to hold a referendum on May 10 for a new constitution before elections scheduled for 2010.

The junta vowed to press ahead with the referendum after the storm, Agence France-Presse reported, citing a state-run newspaper. The U.S. State Department said April 11 the referendum is an attempt by the military to retain power. New York-based Human Rights Watch said the vote is being held in a climate of repression and called the referendum ``a sham.''

``They've orchestrated this vote to give false legitimacy to their continued rule,'' Laura Bush said at a press conference in Washington.

President George W. Bush has instructed the Treasury Department to freeze assets of Burmese state-owned companies that are held in U.S. banks, she added. The move would expand sanctions imposed last year.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Less sleep makes you obese

WASHINGTON: No matter which part of the world you live in, if you don't get enough of sleep, there's a fair chance you are going to put on weight, states a new study.

What's more is that it doesn't matter if you're an adult or a child.

In one of the first studies to observe cross-sectional relationships between duration of sleep and obesity in both children and adults, researchers have discovered a consistent increased risk of obesity among short sleepers.

The study, led by Francesco P Cappuccio, MD, of Warwick Medical School in the United Kingdom, involved an orderly search of publications on the relationship between short sleep duration and obesity risk.

Of the 696 studies, the researchers short-listed 12 studies on children and 17 studies on adults based on the inclusion criteria. This involved report of duration of sleep as exposure, body mass index (BMI) as continuous outcome and prevalence of obesity as categorical outcome, number of participants, age and gender.

In children, the study included 13 population samples from the 12 studies, representing 30,002 participants aged between two to 20 years, and found that 7 of 11 studies showed a significant link between short sleep duration and obesity.

In case of adults, 22 population samples from the 17 studies were included that meant a total of 604,509 participants aged between 15-102 years. It was discovered that 17 population samples showed a significant association between short duration of sleep and obesity.

In fact, all studies in adults showed a consistent and significant negative association between hours of sleep and BMI, quite unlike studies in children.

Cappuccio said that this study showed a consistent pattern of increased odds of being a short sleeper if you are obese, both in childhood and adulthood.

"By appraising the world literature, we were able to show some heterogeneity amongst studies in the world. However, there is a striking consistent overall association, in that both obese children and adults had a significantly increased risk of being short sleepers compared to normal weight individuals. The size of the association was comparable (1.89-fold increase in children and 1.55-fold increase in adults)," said Dr Cappuccio.

He added: "This study is important as it confirms that this association is strong and might be of public health relevance. However, it also raises the unanswered question yet of whether this is a cause-effect association. Only prospective longitudinal studies will be able to address the outstanding question."


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