Eyewitness account of cyclone and after

There are many news reports on the scale of damage and deaths left in Cyclone Nargis’ wake now available in English, and persons interested to get detailed information on the response should especially follow the updates on Relief Web.

According to a government broadcast that Reuters monitored from Bangkok, the official figures as of Tuesday, May 6, stand at:

Irrawaddy Division: Nearly 15,000 dead, 3,000 missing; comprising 1,835 dead, 2,187 missing on Mawlamyaing Island; 975 dead on Heingyi Island; 253 dead, 10 missing on Khetta Island; 789 dead, 172 missing in Dedaye Township; over 1000 dead in Laputta Township; and about 10,000 dead in Bogalay Township. The damage in the delta seems to have been especially severe due to a surge in the sea level at the time of the storm.

Yangon Division: 59 dead, over 500 missing; comprising of 19 dead, 4 missing in Yangon and 40 dead, about 500 missing in Kunchankone. Presumably these figures do not include the prisoners allegedly shot dead at Insein Prison.

At time of writing the government website news had not been updated since May 2.

In the next few days, Rule of Lords will post news from Burmese sources that may be getting partly covered or not covered in the mainstream English media.

Eyewitness account from Laputta

Nearly the entire town of Laputta, which has about 50,000 people living in it, was flattened in the storm, according to one eyewitness. Still, because surrounding villages have been completely obliterated, the villagers have also been pouring into the wrecked town and tens of thousands are estimated to be affected.

“Some were killed by flying trees, some from exposure to the cold, some died when they had gathered to shelter from the storms in monasteries and they collapsed,” the eyewitness said.

The sea rose by around 5 feet and swamped the town (pictured above) at the time of the storm, causing most of the damage and sweeping away small homes and buildings.

“There was water, rain and wind. The shore road was submerged and on the high ground the water was at knee level. The whole town was underwater. There were heavy waves all over, and water snakes. Some died from the snakes,” the eyewitness said.

Around 15 villages have been wiped off the map and the villagers are nowhere to be found, the person said. The villages include: Kaingthaung, Hlwasa, Migyaung-aing, Ywe, Kyotekone, Dhamminchaungle, Leyingwin, Hsinlankyi, Yeywei, Aingma, Kamar, Mi-U and Kyarnigan.

“There has been no help. No one has anywhere to stay. No work, there’s nothing. We’re just sticking together at the monastery.”

Source: Yoma 3, May 5

Other reports

In some places food and water shortages have caused theft and in around Hlaingthayar Market in Rangoon soldiers are patrolling. Prices of other basic essentials like candles have skyrocketed. There was a fire in the Theingyi Market and some looting. The fire brigade has been demanding payments for water at the price of 10,000 Kyat (over US$8 ) to fill a drum. Transport operators prices have multiplied about fourfold as the black market price of fuel has gone up that much. Authorities have only cleared the roads used by senior officials. (Source: Yoma 3, May 5)

At least one top government official, U Aung Thaung, the industry minister, has not bothered to go to the areas affected by the cyclone but has just carried on campaigning for Yes votes in the coming referendum in Taunghsin township of Mandalay. Furthermore, households who didn’t send one member to attend the meetings called to support the draft have been told that they will be fined 2000 Kyat (around US$ 1.60), in some places, 2500. A local resident questioned what the point was of his continuing on with the referendum campaign when lower Burma is in ruins. (Source: Yoma 3, May 6)

Local people in Rangoon and monks have cleared roads themselves due to the lack of authorities. The clearing has been done by a system of “self reliance” according to one participant. People are also sharing small quantities of water and other essentials among themselves to get through this period. In Kyimyintaing, Rangoon, some small vendors had reopened. (Source: DVB, May 5)

U Myint Aye, a member of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters speaking to DVB from Bogalay said that it was hit by the storm from 8:30pm to 4am, at about 5am it was passed. Wards 2, 4, 6, 7, 8 and 9 were most seriously damaged, including from winds and water. A villager from the south of the town said that the village had been destroyed and children and women were missing. There has been absolutely no contact from some areas. There has been no effective assistance yet. People are surviving under plastic sheets and have gathered at monasteries. Every monastery has had its roof destroyed, but monks are giving assistance by distributing timber and other supplies to the public from their stocks. There are serious concerns about food, water and health. (Source: DVB broadcast, May 6)

Two people were killed at the jetty on the Hlaing River in Ngazin section of Kyimyindaing Township in Rangoon yet despite the deaths being reported to the township police station no one came. One was a 45-year-old named Kyaw Thein who was crushed when the structure in which he hid collapsed. When no police arrived the locals went ahead and cremated the body. The other was 33-year-old Ko Aung Sein who died from illness caused by exposure to the elements. (Source: DVB, May 6)

In Pegu, northeast of Rangoon, at least one person was killed and people are unhappy at the slow response from authorities. There was fire in section 19 and damage in other quarters. The person, described as a waiter in the shop–usually young boys–was killed in a teashop on Paya Road by the USDA office after it was hit by a falling tree. (Source: DVB, May 6)


7 responses to “Eyewitness account of cyclone and after

  1. Residents Say 22 Villages Destroyed in Laputta Township
    By SAW YAN NAING, Tuesday, May 6, 2008, The Irrawaddy

    While the Burmese government has announced that the death toll from Cyclone Nargis currently stands at 22,500, witnesses who have managed to get out of Laputta Township in the Irrawaddy Delta have told The Irrawaddy that 22 villages were completely destroyed and that the death toll could be much higher.

    A local source from Laputta Township estimated a total of 60,000 people could have been killed by the cyclone. This estimate could not be independently confirmed.

    Located at the southwestern point of the delta, Laputta Township was one of the first coastal areas to have been hit by the cyclone. About 200,000 people live within Laputta Township.

    He said, “I think 95 percent of Laputta Township was destroyed. I can confirm that 22 villages were totally destroyed. Corpses can be seen everywhere.

    “Survivors cannot find food or water. They might die too.”

    Sources said that diarrhea has now affected a great number of people in the Irrawaddy Delta due to infection from corpses and dead fish.

    Another local resident said, “Many of my friends and colleagues were killed. Locations near the sea were totally flooded. The water level went up by three meters (10 feet). All the wells have been flooded, so there is no water to drink. Some died after they were bitten by snakes that were washed up in the floods.”

    Survivors are now seeking shelter in local monasteries, while those more fortunate are sharing whatever rice they own.

    The source said that no aid from either the Burmese government or non-governmental organizations has been received in Laputta Township to date.

    The cyclone hit Laputta Township on May 2 at about 2 a.m. while most people were sleeping, he said, adding that the storm continued throughout the night.

    The Burmese regime has estimated the death toll in Bogalay Township alone is 10,000 with 30,000 people still missing and 20,000 houses destroyed. Bogalay lies some 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Laputta. Official Burmese media has said that 92,706 people have been left homeless on Haing Kyi Island off the Irrawaddy delta coast.

    Meanwhile, a resident of Pyapon in Irrawaddy Division who lives in Rangoon told The Irrawaddy by telephone: “As far as I know, almost all the rooftops in Pyapon were blown away. My neighbors said that the roof of my house was also blown off.”

    Sources in several areas in Rangoon Division—including Tamwe, Hlaing, Tharyar and Hlegu—contacted by The Irrawaddy all confirmed that no assistance from the authorities had been received to date. The residents claim they had to clean up the roads, the fallen trees and the damaged houses by themselves.

    Meanwhile, basic commodities are sky-rocketing in price as consumers rush to buy foodstuffs with fears growing about food shortages. Some commodities are already out of stock.

    Sources in Rangoon said that the price of all commodities—such as rice, gasoline, cooking oil, eggs and vegetables—has risen dramatically since Cyclone Nargis hit Burma on Friday night. The sources estimated that prices would continue to rise.

    The price of one viss (1.6 kilograms) of rice is now 2,000 kyat (US $1.77) from 1,200 kyat last week; one gallon of gasoline is now 7,000 kyat ($6.19), up from 3,000 kyat; while a viss of cooking oil has risen from between 3,000 to 4,000 kyat to 6,000 kyat ($5.31).

    The price of everyday products such as eggs, cabbages and pork has almost doubled since the weekend. Candles—now more necessary than ever with the city’s shaky electrical grid now ground to a standstill—have doubled in price. Bus fares have increased fivefold.

    The state-run media has yet to report the rising prices and the extent of damage and death from the Cyclone Nargis disaster.

    * Additional reporting by Kyi Wai in Rangoon.


    Burmese Officials Go AWOL to Search for Relatives
    By MIN LWIN, Tuesday, May 6, 2008, The Irrawaddy

    With the death count climbing in Burma’s densely populated Irrawaddy Delta in the wake of last Saturday’s devastating cyclone, some officials in the capital are courting the ruling junta’s ire by leaving their posts to search for family members in the affected area.

    Sources in Naypyidaw told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that civil servants in the regime’s new capital, located some 320 kilometers north of Burma’s largest city and former capital, Rangoon, have been denied permission to take leave until after a constitutional referendum scheduled to take place on May 10.

    Despite orders to remain on the job, however, many have already made their way back to Rangoon, which was directly in the path of Cyclone Nargis when it struck in the early hours of May 3.

    “Some staff members have returned with the tacit approval of their superiors,” said an official who works in the Ministry of Education, speaking on condition of anonymity.

    “We left our children in Rangoon, and we should be there with them now,” the official said, adding that higher authorities have turned down all requests for leave until after the May 10 referendum.

    Many of Burma’s bureaucrats have homes in Rangoon, where they lived until the junta suddenly shifted the capital to Naypyidaw in November 2005. Telephone lines and Internet connections in Rangoon, which is still the country’s main commercial center, have been down since Friday.

    Military personnel with relatives in the stricken area have also been returning to their homes without permission from their commanding officers.

    A sergeant working at a military supply office in Naypyidaw said that some junior officers have gone back to Rangoon because they had been unable to make contact with their families there.

    “I don’t know if the people who have gone to Rangoon will be punished after they come back to work,” he said.

    Meanwhile, concern is also growing among Burmese people living in other parts of the country and overseas.

    A doctor from Kalewa Township in northern Burma’s Sagaing Division said that she was deeply worried about the situation in Rangoon, because she hadn’t received any information from her family there since the cyclone struck.

    Millions of Burmese living and working abroad are also troubled by the lack of concrete information coming out of the disaster zone.

    “Every Burmese worker here is concerned about the situation,” said Aung Myint, an employee at a company in Malaysia’s Kalan State. “We keep trying to call Burma every chance we get.”

    According to Aung Myint, Digi Telecommunications Sdn Bhd, a Malaysian telecommunications company, sent a message to registered Burmese customers announcing that calls to Burma had been impacted by the Cyclone Nargis disaster.

  2. Pingback: Global Voices Online » Myanmar: Unprecedented cyclone disaster

  3. 10,000 reported dead in Bogalay township

    May 6, 2008 (DVB)- As the scale of the devastation caused by Cyclone Nargis in Burma becomes clearer, government figures say that 10,000 people were killed in Bogalay township alone.

    The Burmese military regime has estimated the overall death toll to be more than 15,000, though this figure is being constantly revised as new information becomes available.

    U Myint Aye of the Human Rights Defenders and Promoters network said his sources in Bogalay had confirmed the extent of the devastation in the Irrawaddy town.

    He told DVB the cyclone had begun to hit the town at around 5.30pm on 2 May, and was at its strongest between 8.30pm until 4am on 3 May.

    “Houses in wards 2, 4, 6, 7, 8 and 9 of the Bogalay town were completely destroyed by the wind,” Myint Aye said.

    “Strong buildings in ward 1, 3 and 5 had their roofs ripped off by the cyclone while the small houses collapsed.”

    Myint Aye said all the villages around Bogalay were now under water, leaving many people stranded.

    “On 4 April, I was informed by a resident of Mondine Gyi village, located south of Bogalay town, that all the houses there were under water and people were forced to stay on top of their roofs,” he said.

    “He said some people even died after falling of their roofs due to the strong tide.”

    Myint Aye also criticised the lack of government response to the crisis.

    “Authorities have so far provided no assistance to the villagers and they have no food, no shelter and no clean water,” he said.

    “Monasteries have also had their roofs blown off and so have been unable to provide shelter to the victims.”

    Reporting by Naw Say Phaw


    Cyclone survivor describes situation in Dadaye

    May 6, 2008 (DVB)-In the aftermath of the devastating cyclone that swept Burma over the weekend, DVB spoke to a survivor from Dadaye township, Irrawaddy division, one of the worst-affected areas.

    The Dadaye resident spoke about his own experiences and what he had seen as he fled to safety.

    “The tides came along with the storm. So people left their homes and tried to sleep on the roads. I think there were maybe more than 1000 people sleeping in the streets.”

    DVB: Are there any homes left?

    “There are no homes left. People are now searching for the bodies of their family members. Many families lost three, five or more loved ones. We were lucky and we survived. We left all our belongings and brought nothing with use when we escaped. We escaped during the night.”

    DVB: Is the tide coming in?

    “Yes, the tide is coming in. Trees have fallen on top of people, there are many dead bodies lying under trees. Many people have lost their homes.”

    DVB: How many people were killed?

    “I saw lots of dead bodies on my way, and large herds of animals have been killed everywhere. Children were seen hanging by their hands as they died.”

    DVB: Were many children killed?

    “Not just children, also adults, elderly people – everyone.”

    DVB: Did all the villagers die?

    “There are only six left alive in the entire village.”

    DVB: Is that Danyingon village, near Dadaye?

    “Yes, all the people I saw were in floods of tears and were searching for the bodies of their loved ones. There was a bad smell from the dead bodies along the way we came.”

    DVB: Have the dead bodies not yet been removed?

    “There are bodies in areas which have not yet been searched. We found about 40 dead bodies on our way. Herds of cows and buffalo were also among the victims.”

    DVB: Were there dead bodies floating in the water?

    “Everywhere – in the bushes, in the streams, everywhere.”

    DVB: Floating bodies could be brought back when tide comes in again.

    “This tragedy was caused by a combination of the tides and the storm. There was too much water coming in.”

    For footage of this interview, please send a request by email to admin@dvb.no

  4. I feel that the rebel groups should make contact with the various aid groups in the surrounding countries ,like Thailand, and see what can be done to get food, medicine, and supplies to the needy. If the “mighty” SPDC can not afford to respond to areas affected by the storm then they can not go around chasing rebels carrying food either. This is a good chance for the freedom fighters to show the world who the good guys are. Come on boys! I am rooting for you!

  5. Pingback: “Only three in ten are alive” « Rule of Lords

  6. Bloggers describe ‘sad moment’ for Myanmar
    By Jim Kavanagh, CNN

    Eyewitness reports on the devastation and suffering left in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar trickled out Wednesday by way of Web sites and blogs.

    “This is indeed a very sad moment for all Myanmar people,” blogger Myat Thura wrote from neighboring Thailand.

    More than 22,000 people have died, according to estimates from Myanmar’s state-run media. Another 40,000 are believed to be missing, according to the estimates, and 1 million have been left homeless since the storm hit last weekend in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.

    “They are my people and it hurts me so much. Why our Burmese people have to suffer such kind of hardship? Why us?” Myat Thura wrote.

    Another blogger, who calls herself May Burma, blamed the storm’s devastation on corruption and dissipation in Myanmar society.

    “Burmese used to say that our country never had natural disaster since we have our religion, culture and so many arhats [spiritual practitioners], pure monks and sayadaws [senior monks]. This is not the case anymore lately,” she wrote.

    A blogger called Rule of Lords claimed to translate reports from Thai television station Yoma 3 into English.

    According to Rule of Lords, the station quoted eyewitnesses who said refugees were pouring into Laputta, even though the storm flattened the city of 50,000.

    “There was water, rain and wind,” an eyewitness told Yoma 3, Rule of Lords related. “The shore road was submerged and on the high ground the water was at knee level. The whole town was under water. There were heavy waves all over, and water snakes. Some died from the snakes.

    “There has been no help. No one has anywhere to stay. No work, there’s nothing. We’re just sticking together at the monastery,” the witness told the station, according to Rule of Lords.

    The Irrawaddy, an opposition news Web site, quoted a doctor who said Buddhist monks were helping victims as much as they could.

    “Monks and young people in each town collected money and rice after the storm, and they cooked rice soup for the survivors,” the physician said, Irrawaddy reported.

    In one monastery in the township of Bogalay, about 600 people waited for aid, said CNN correspondent Dan Rivers, who is in the devastated region. The monks there said they had enough food for two days and no prospects of getting more.

    Meanwhile, Myanmar military authorities were attempting to prevent the monks from getting involved in relief efforts, Irrawaddy said. Learn more about Myanmar »

    “Burmese military officials ordered monks not to use monasteries as safe houses for survivors and, according to journalists in Rangoon, the Ministry of Information ordered news agencies not to publish photographs of Buddhist monks aiding survivors, working in the streets or rebuilding homes,” the Web site alleged.

    Rangoon is the former name of Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city and its economic center.

    “The newspapers said the ruling generals and troops encouraged and aided survivors,” a dentist told Irrawaddy on Wednesday. “But this has quickly become a standing joke among people in Rangoon. We now say soldiers can only be seen in newspapers — nowhere else.

    “My house was destroyed,” he added. “But I don’t see any officials coming to visit me.”

    A news program on state television showed video of soldiers in helicopters delivering bags of rice and containers of water to people, but it was unclear where in Myanmar the footage was shot, CNN’s Rivers reported.

    In the southern delta region, the soldiers who were seen were clearing downed trees, not delivering aid, Rivers said.

    The Irrawaddy site alleged local officials in Yangon were charging storm victims for tin-roofing material. It said officials’ relatives were buying up the material and reselling it at a 600 percent markup.

    “Toilets are overflowing,” Laputta resident Aye Kyu said, according to Irrawaddy. “If aid does not arrive soon, people will starve to death. I beg both the government and international agencies to get emergency aid to Laputta as soon as possible.”

    A blogger named Jotman noted the storm devastated Myanmar’s main rice-growing region.

    “This disaster could not have come at a worse time for Burma and the world; the effects of Cyclone Nargis may be felt far beyond the shores of Burma,” Jotman wrote. “Because if the Burmese people are to be fed, the food may have to come from somewhere else.

    “It is conceivable that the cyclone will drive up rice and food prices worldwide, and exacerbate global shortages.”

    CNN’s Dan Rivers contributed to this report.

  7. Pingback: Pistachio Consulting Inc. » Meaningful Action in the Cyclone Aftermath

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