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Myanmar: Citizen videos in Cyclone Nargis’ aftermath

Categories: Myanmar (Burma), Breaking News, Citizen Media, Digital Activism, Disaster, Humanitarian Response, Refugees

On May 2nd, 2008, Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar (Burma), generating massive damage and tens of thousands dead or missing. The situation would be considered critical for any country. However, the military government or “junta” has restricted the entrance of aid by requiring all donations to pass through them. The junta has also set up guidelines for journalists on how to report on the cyclone, restricting their communications, particularly on showing dead bodies or reporting about insufficient aid for victims, according to Burma News [1], a local online news source.

In spite of these restrictions on people carrying cameras and taking pictures, some have gone out to record the extent of the damages. There is anger over the failure of authorities to evacuate the affected villages, even when they were allegedly aware of the impending cyclone and the possible devastation it could cause. The following images, uploaded by YouTube user aungsayapyi [2] may affect sensitive people: they are very graphic, include dead bodies and should be viewed with discretion and an adult's consent:

YouTube user AfterNargisYgn [3] has been uploading a multi-part series of videos featuring images of the effects of the Cyclone in Yangon, Myanmar's largest city, previously known as Rangoon. People removing downed trees, wading through waters and drying up their mattresses, clothing and in general trying to clean up and move on.

YouTube user Burma4u [4]uploaded a video of the aftermath in Latbutta, with Cyclone Nargis’ victims crowded in refugee shelters, trying to sleep as they mull over what will happen to them in the near and far future.

An insightful video about the Burmese people's future has come from myochitmyanmar, [5] another YouTube user who has uploaded a video with some English subtitles, interviewing Laputta survivors and refugees on their current situation: at the refugee camps, on the streets: rice donations and clothing hand-outs for children, private initiatives done without the State Peace and Development Council who governs them. Meanwhile, a picture on Burma News [6] shows what looks like Red Cross aid, which is supposed to be for Cyclone refugees, being sold on the streets.

The following video, also from aungsayapyi [2] shows how people are experiencing life in the refugee camps with donations from private donations, and a Military General's arrival, carrying promises instead of clothing, food or water. They proceed to tell refugees that the people who died, died because of bad karma, and that they should consider themselves lucky to be alive. They give some recommendations about grouping themselves according to villages and then leave. It has been subtitled in English for a better understanding of the events:

In the YouTube Blog [7]they've also highlighted the video community's efforts to help Myanmar and provide aid, and they highlight both news networks and private initiatives who are documenting the cyclone and letting the world know what is going on in this small Southeast Asian country. For example, Nightwatcher1982 [8] of the Netherlands has promised that for every video response to his video he gets, he will donate $5 to the Red Cross, and if it's a good video, he'll donate $10:

Global Voices Online [9] has been providing extensive coverage of the disaster, aggregating information from different citizen media sources in the region on what is happening with food aid, water and the refugee situation as death tolls continue to rise. Please don't hesitate to go over to our Special Myanmar Cyclone Coverage page [10] and read the posts that the amazing team of volunteer authors have been writing with translations from Burmese blogs telling first hand accounts of life in Myanmar right now. You can also follow our Myanmar feed on twitter [11].

There will also be a global blog action day on behalf of the Burmese victims on May 17th, [12] when people are asked to tell others about the crisis in Myanmar, and some are already organizing fundraisers and events.