The severe Cyclone Nargis that ravaged the southern Asian country of Myanmar (formerly Burma) has brought the country literally to its knees with a death toll of over 22,000 and hundreds of thousands of people homeless and without food, clear water and other basic necessities. The storm was so severe, that the country’s autocratic military government has had no choice other than to beg the outside world for assistance due to a total breakdown in the country’s infrastructure.
Southern and eastern Asia are accustomed to receiving severe storms, and one which recently hit the country of Bangladesh also caused widespread flooding and damage, although not on such a scale as occurred in Myanmar. The frequency of these storms, and their increasing severity, are being blamed by many environmentalists as a consequence of the word-wide phenomena now being referred to as global warming. Global warming is also being blamed for very high temperatures in countries like India, a neighboring country whose eastern regions border on Myanmar. Already in early May, daytime temperatures in Indian cities such as Delhi are reaching 41 degrees Celsius (106F) resulting in more deaths from the intense heat that doesn’t seem to let up until the late summer monsoon season finally arrives.
The monsoon season brings problems of it’s own as it often results in widespread flooding in low lying regions such as India’s own river delta regions, especially in eastern India. The monsoons that arrive have been fiercer than in former years, and the result is widespread damage and loss of property for many people whose lives are on a mere subsistence level in normal times.
Severe weather has also played havoc in other parts of the world, including Europe, Central and South America, and in North America as well. Hurricane Katrina, the category 5 storm that slammed into the U.S. Gulf Coast in late August 2005, caused devastating damage not only to the city of New Orleans, but to the entire southern part of the state of Mississippi. The damage inflicted to southern Mississippi coastal towns and cities was so severe that some communities were virtually obliterated by powerful winds and storm surges, with walls of water forced up from the Gulf of Mexico.
What happened in Mississippi is now being compared to the Irrawaddy Delta region of Myanmar, where similar storm surges sent mountainous walls of water as high as seven meters (30 feet) up narrow river inlets, destroying virtually everything in its path. Witnesses there claim that the damage is as bad as the tsunami tidal wave which struck parts of southern Asia on December 26, 2004 and killed more than 150,000 souls.
While many meteorologists and other scientists studying climate change do not consider these severe weather occurrences as consequences of global warming, many others do link these storms with what is now being referred to as “the greenhouse effect”. As a result, many experts say that the problems with the world’s weather are bound to get worse before getting better.
For the unfortunate citizens of what was once one of the most beautiful and prosperous countries of southern Asia, in pre-junta days, it may be a long time before they and their country recover from the effects of Cyclone Nargis. And the death toll from hunger and disease may push the total death toll from this storm to well over 30,000.