German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier appealed to the military regime that governs Burma, known under its military rulers as Myanmar, to cooperate with international aid organizations in a statement issued on Monday from Berlin.
“The cyclone Nargis is just one more heavy blow of fate for the sorely afflicted people of Myanmar,” Steinmeier said.
“German help is standing ready. Together with German aid organizations and international partners we are currently assessing where we can help most effectively.”
German aid is part of a European Union package of €2 million in initial aid announced on Monday after the Burmese government asked for international aid – a change from its stance after the 2004 tsunami, when it rejected help from abroad. The United States also offered $250,000 on Monday.
The German funding is to be targeted toward drinking water, emergency shelters, household items and mosquito nets, according to the German foreign office.
Nargis tore through Burma on Saturday, surprising a population with little access to radio, television or other news. Aid organizations estimate up to 1 million people may have lost their homes.
“Friends told us we should stay home because something was coming,” Heinrich Schoeneich, of Munich, told German press agency DPA of the situation in the Burmese capital of Rangoon the night before the storm. “I think that warnings did take place, but not to the degree there could have been.”
Schoeneich had spent two weeks in the mountains of central Burma as part of a team of German doctors.
Carsten Schmidt, manager of a travel bureau in Rangoon, described a scene of residents hacking away with axes and machetes at debris clogging the city’s streets. Schmidt said 70 to 80 percent of the city’s trees had been uprooted.
“The biggest problem is that there is no electricity or running water,” Schmidt told DPA, adding that residents stood in line with buckets in front of his office to get water from his generator-operated pump.
“But when the diesel is all gone, the pump will be useless,” he said.