THE Salvation Army in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) is responding to the devastation caused by Cyclone Nargis, which is thought to have killed more than 20,000 people. Communications to Myanmar have been severely affected but news has been received that local Salvationists are helping victims in the Yangon area.

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Although occasionally the victim of flooding in the rainy seasons, the country of Myanmar has not, on the whole, been subject to cyclones. Because of this, the infrastructure is not in place to deal with such a disaster. News bulletins are reporting an escalating death toll and many thousands of people are now homeless as a result of the cyclone and without access to clean water.

Despite being subject to the great difficulties and damage to property – the roof was torn off the Regional Headquarters building – members of The Salvation Army in Yangon have been providing cooked meals from their own store of food for those who are desperately in need. Local Salvationists are seeking to assist as many people as possible although access to many areas is near impossible. In some places communication networks are completely unavailable.

Commissioner David Bringans, leader of The Salvation Army in Singapore, Malaysia and Myanmar, says: ‘Our people in Myanmar are already dispensing rice and other relief to the people. Both of our two children’s homes in Yangon have artesian wells and they are running the generators to pump water from these almost non-stop. The public are therefore able to come to our compounds to receive clean water at this time.’

There has already been widespread support from many countries in terms of financial assistance and, as access and communications improve, aid will be sent direct to those giving assistance.

A Salvation Army assessment team from the region is en route to the affected area and will make plans for the most immediate needs to be met. There is no doubt that this tragedy has caused much suffering and that it will take a long time for Myanmar and the population to recover from the effects of this unexpected devastation.

Major Mike Caffull, Field Operations Officer of International Emergency Services, says: ‘Early indications suggest that Salvationists in Myanmar are responding magnificently to the disaster that has hit their country, but it is also clear that there is going to be a great need for substantial financial support to enable an appropriate response to the damage and suffering that is already being experienced and which is likely to continue for some time.’