Nargis causing more economic damage than Indonesia's tsunami - Ban Ki-moon
Cyclone Nargis may have inflicted more severe and longer-lasting economic losses to Myanmar than the tsunami that devastated part of Indonesia's Aceh province in 2004, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday before flying to Southeast Asia, the dpa reported.
Ban was expected on Wednesday in Yangon where he was to be given a Myanmar government tour of the Irrawaddy delta, the worst affected area when Nargis went through two weeks ago, killing tens of thousands of people. The delta had been the food bowl for Myanmar.
"I want to see the conditions under which relief teams are working, and I intend to do all I can to reinforce their efforts in coordination with Myanmar authorities and international aid agencies," Ban told reporters at UN headquarters before leaving for Bangkok and then Yangon.
Ban acknowledged that Myanmar's military regime had become recently more flexible to offers for international relief aid and workers to alleviate suffering caused by Nargis, which the UN now said could have affected up to 2.5 million people.
Myanmar estimated damage caused by Nargis to the impoverished nation at more than 10 billion dollars and has asked the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to handle relief aid. It said it was too late for farmers to plant the next rice crop in the delta under the circumstances caused by Nargis.
"In this sense, the economic effects of the natural disaster that has struck Myanmar could be more severe and longer-lasting than the 2004 tsunami," Ban said.
The undersea earthquake that triggered the tsunami in December, 2004, killed up to 200,000 people in Indonesia's Aceh province. The international community sent billions of dollars to help the Jakarta government reconstruct the areas.
Ban will preside with ASEAN a pledging conference in Yangon on Sunday to devise plans for Myanmar's relief and recovery programmes.
Following his meetings on Wednesday in Yangon with Myanmar government officials, Ban will fly to Bangkok for talks with Thai officials on the situation in Myanmar. He then will fly back to Yangon for the conference before returning to New York.