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Myanmars in Malaysia worry about their loved ones

The Star, May 7, 2008

PENANG, Malaysia -- The thoughts and prayers of Myanmars living here are with their countrymen as the death toll of Cyclone Nargis soars.

<< Praying for victims: Visitors offering prayers at the Dhammikarama Burmese Buddhist Temple in Burma Lane, Penang yesterday.

Many have yet to hear any news from their home country as communication networks have been down in most parts since the tropical storm struck southern Myanmar on Friday.

“I've been trying to call every day but I could not contact any of my family,” said Thein Aung, the resident artist at the Dhammikarama Burmese Buddhist Temple here.

Thein Aung, who hails from Yangon, knows his hometown was hard hit by the cyclone.

“We are keeping up to date with news coming from Myanmar newspapers on the Internet.

“My wife and two children are back there and I'm very worried,” said the 51-year-old.

A Myanmar doctor, who has been working in Penang for over 20 years, said he was concerned about the food situation and the threat of disease.

“This kind of natural disaster has never hit Myanmar before,” said the doctor, who requested anonymity.

He added that his family lived in Yangon but were lucky as they were wealthy enough to possess a generator and personal water supply.

“Food, drinking water and petrol prices have risen tremendously since the storm. I have heard that most things are now 10 to 20 times the normal amount.

“Another concern is rice production. The Irrawaddy division is literally the rice bowl of Myanmar. Now is the time the farmers start to plant crops and damage from the storm may trigger a dangerous food crisis in the country,” he said.

Dhammikarama Burmese Buddhist Temple's resident monk Venerable Vimala said the monks have also been trying to call home but with no success.

“We may be holding a prayer ceremony for the victims soon,” he said.

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Myanmar Cyclone Disaster Fast Facts

Toll as at May 9, 2008

Dead (official)
Missing (official) 41,054
Dead (US estimate) 100,000 plus
Homeless (UN estimate) 1 million- plus

International contributors

$10 million
$3 million
UNITED STATES $3 million
AUSTRALIA $2.8 million
$2 million in aid.
CANADA $2 million
INDONESIA $1 million
SPAIN $775,000
GERMANY $775,000
CHINA $500,000
FRANCE $320,000
GREECE $300,000
JAPAN $267,570
THAILAND $100,000
$2.1 million
SRI LANKA $25,000

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