BANGKOK, Thailand (CNN) -- As many as 350 people are feared dead (UPDATE 3: 22,464 now dead, 41,000 missing and death toll could reach above 60,000.) after a tropical cyclone with winds up to 150 miles per hour slammed into Myanmar over the weekend, according to local media reports. "We believe hundreds of people are dead," said Khin Maung Win with the Democratic Voice of Burma -- a broadcast media group run by opposition expatriates. "The entire lower Burma is affected. In some areas, entire villages disappeared."
A diplomat in Rangoon, the principal city, described the scene in an email to Reuters. "Utter war zone," he wrote. "Trees across all streets. Utility poles down. Hospitals devastated. Clean water scarce." "Where are all those uniformed people who are always ready to beat civilians?" said a Rangoon resident, who refused to be identified.
James: However, reports from DVB (Democratic Voice of Burma) also say that the government isn't doing much to help people. (UPDATE: Reports from U.S. Campaign for Burma say that officials barely gave people notice of arriving cyclone).
DVB talked to several residents in Rangoon and the following are some of their accounts.
Resident 1 They (authorities) are doing nothing. After hovering above us in a helicopter once, they did nothing. They are not even coming to see us.
Resident 3 Here, there is nothing like a rescue effort. We have to do it ourselves.
Resident 4 No rescue efforts have been carried out. I saw no one doing anything.
Resident 5 We don’t where they (the authorities) are, which corners they have gone to. They only know how to beat up people.
James: As you know, Burma has been facing very hard times and this storm has compounded things even more. Before the storm people were living in terrible conditions and facing shortages of gas and food and now there has been serious damage done to an already dysfunctional infrastructure and economy. I fear that the death toll will only continue to climb.
However, not surprisingly the Buddhist monks have been helping where ever and however they can. Such actions confirm to me the comfort and help that is found when one takes refuge in the Dharma and the Sangha. So may we all stop to think about our brothers and sisters in Burma today. May we hold them in our hearts and perhaps donate some money to the DVB or other pro-free Burma organizations to aid them in helping the Burmese people. May we find any way possible to keep the attention on Burma so that they can finally feel some relief from their profound suffering.
~Peace to all beings~