Burma's Department of Meteorology and Hydrology was told of the formation of Cyclone Nargis a week in advance, but the country was not prepared to handle a disaster of this magnitude.
Bhichit Rattakul, executive director of Thailand-based Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre (ADPC), said yesterday that one of the first warnings came from the US Navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Centre, which issued an alert on April 27.
The ADPC, which established an Asia-Pacific-wide early-warning centre for natural disasters at Thailand's Asian Institute of Technology in the wake of 2004 tsunami disaster, forecast the tropical cyclone in the Bay of Bengal, he said.
According to Bhichit, a former science minister and Bangkok governor, the data were passed on to authorities in several countries in the region, including India and Burma.
"Our model forecast was right in the landfall position of Cyclone Nargis and we issued this forecast to Burma seven days before the landfall. This accuracy is because the ADPC can provide maps with a high-resolution, 9-kilometre radius to pinpoint the location of our forecasts.
"In turn, we can identify communities and farmland that are at risk.
"Upon request from our partner countries, these severe weather advisories are given to national meteorological departments to enable them to issue disaster warnings to their people," he said.
Bhichit added that preparedness was no less important than early warnings, given that the lack of capacity to prepare well in advance could help prevent avoiding the consequences of natural disasters.
He declined to comment specifically on the Burma case.
Dying in a deluge
According to news reports, large areas of southwest Burma are under water after the devastating cyclone that struck at the weekend, killing at least 22,000 people, satellite images show.
Tropical Cyclone Nargis slammed into Burma late on Friday, wiping away entire villages in the Irrawaddy delta and wreaking destruction on a country that is already one of the poorest on the planet.
Nasa pictures taken on Monday show the entire coastal plain under water, with fallow agricultural areas of the delta - the country's main rice-growing region - particularly hard hit by flooding.