Assessing the damage to Myanmar, where a Category 4 hurricane, Tropical Cyclone Nargis, made landfall near the nation's capital and largest city, Yangon, could take days or weeks, according to the United Nations.
State-run media published by the secretive and repressive military junta that rules the nation has said that three-fourths of the buildings in two towns, Laputta and Kyaik Lat, had been destroyed. Indian news quoted an anonymous official stating that 241 people were confirmed dead.
It is widely believed that buildings and infrastructure were catastrophically damaged throughout the Irrawaddy River delta region, where the cyclone struck after reaching Category 4 strength in the Bay of Bengal. By the time it hit the capital city, according to Reuters, the hurricane had lost strength, but remained a powerful Category 3 storm.
The hurricane developed early in the Bay of Bengal, but forecasts had predicted a Category 1 or 2 landfall until just hours before it hit land.
Assessing the damage is made difficult by the country's relationship with the international community. Just Friday, President Bush approved further sanctions against Myanmar (Burma), according to the Associated Press, this time against state-owned companies, because they prop up "the nation's military junta, which has been condemned by the international community for suppressing pro-democracy dissidents."
This is the second Category 4 hurricane to develop in the Bay of Bengal and make landfall in about six months. Like Cyclone Sidr, which struck Bangladesh, killing 3,000 and devastating the rice crop, the news media paid little attention to the storm until the damage was done. A massive international relief effort followed the Bangladesh cyclone, but that nation is also ruled by a government that participates in the international community, had worked for years to prepare hurricane evacuation procedures, and was generally credited with doing all it could to limit the damage from the deadly storm.
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