Burma and Cyclone Nargis

With the death toll in Burma of Cyclone Nargis climbing to 10,000 and above, humanitarian groups have begun to release maps of the affected areas.  Some of the most interesting and detailed maps I’ve seen have been produced by UNOSAT–the UN Institute for Training and Research Operational Satellite Applications Program.  UNOSAT is jointly administered by the United Nations and the European Organization of High Energy Physics (CERN).  UNOSAT develops and delivers its maps in support of humanitarian efforts, peace, and international development and security. 

UNOSAT’s has released several maps of the impact of Cyclone Nargis on Burma’s coastal regions, some of which are available here, including maps of the Yangon (Rangoon) area, the Laputto and Bagale townships, and the delta of the Ayeyarwady River, which are among the hardest hit parts of the country.  The maps overlay terrain, urban areas, roads, and other infrastructure with satellite-detected flooding.  The path of the cyclone, including its category and wind speeds, is also tracked on the map.  Finally, the maps include tables of estimated flood areas in several of the larger cities.

These maps demonstrate one of the reasons for the substantial death toll–the cyclone’s path was directly over some of Burma’s most heavily populated areas.  The capital city of Rangoon took a direct hit from the eye of the cyclone.  The extent of the storm surge, and the depths of water indicated in the tables, suggest large numbers of casualties from flooding in addition to the high winds.

UNICEF is responding to the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Burma as a result of the cyclone.  You can support their efforts by donating online at this website.

Update: Burma state media is now reporting that the death toll is at 22,000, with 41,000 missing.

Update 2: The New York Times just released this interesting graphic of the overall damage.


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Cartographia is a blog about how we use maps to represent the world around us, and how people interpret maps today and throughout history. Please feel free to send any questions, comments, or recommendations directly to me at cartographia.blog@gmail.com.

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