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Page last updated at 18:47 GMT, Tuesday, 6 May 2008 19:47 UK

Was Burma's cyclone predicted?

By Steve Jackson
BBC News

As the scale of the disaster in Burma becomes clear, questions are being asked over how much the authorities knew about the magnitude of the approaching storm.
Nasa satellite image of the cyclone
The junta is likely to face questions about how much it knew

US First Lady Laura Bush has accused the military government of failing to act to protect its people.

She says the Burmese authorities were well aware of the threat from Cyclone Nargis, but failed to issue a timely warning to those in the path of the storm.

India's meteorological agency, which monitors cyclones in the Indian Ocean, says it warned the Burmese authorities 48 hours before the storm struck.

The agency says it told Burma where the storm would hit land and how severe it was expected to be.

Burmese citizens have complained that they were not properly alerted, but Burmese state television issued a statement in English saying warnings were given several days beforehand.

"Timely weather reports were announced and aired through the television, and radio in order to keep the people safe and secure in nationwide," the statement said.

Certainly state media did give some warnings of a storm, but people in Burma say the severity of the cyclone was unclear and no instructions were given as to what action they should take.

Officials from the UN's disaster reduction agency in Geneva say it is clear many people did not have time to seek refuge in secure buildings.

They say the scale of the devastation suggests there was not a proper early warning system.

Burma's military government is likely to face many more questions about how prepared the country was for such a storm and how many lives could have been saved if a tried and tested early warning system was in place.


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