“Only three in ten are alive”

(Latest update of Burmese language reports on Cyclone Nargis)

One of the areas worst affected by the cyclone was Laputta, in the Irrawaddy Delta. A resident of the township speaking to Yoma 3 News (Thailand) said that,

“The township has 16 village tracts. There are at least five villages per tract, and over 200 villages in total. People coming from the villages said that out of these villagers, for every ten, only around three are alive.”

According to Yoma 3 sources, although the government has put the official death toll in Laputta at over a thousand it is in fact much higher than that and to date no help has arrived.

A villager who came into town said

“There’s work on the Thingangyi-Laputta Road but cars can’t travel it yet. Along every road, the Kyarnikan village roads, whatever road, there are so many dead they’re uncountable. For this reason many more in the villages could die. My mother, father, brothers and sisters are all dead. I can’t do anything. I’m left all alone.”

Twenty-two villages disappeared in the cyclone and tidal wave that it brought with it across the low-lying region, Yoma 3 says. It notes that there were in total 26 villages along the Laputta shore front: Kaingthaung, Pyinlan, Ayadaw, Yway, Gonenyindan, Thingankyi, Yeyway, Pyintaungpyay, Ohboe, Kyarnikan, Hsakyin, Pyinsalu, Layyeinkwin, Yekyawwa, Hsachet, Kyonekwin, Bitut, Myitpauk, Shwekyunthar, Dhanichaung, Saluhseit, Michaung-aing, Dayeihpyu, Kantbhalar, Yehsainggone and Thehpyu.

Another local resident said

“Everyone’s gone to stay in the monasteries. As they’ve run out of food, social welfare groups are boiling rice soup. Nobody has seen anything substantial done. It’s just in the news. It just went to Mawlamyaing Island. There’s been no help yet. Survivors coming into the town have machetes strapped to their waists, are getting into arguments. Security is not so good.”

Councils selling supplies

Township councils in Rangoon are not distributing emergency supplies free of charge but are selling them. Council vehicles are travelling in some areas announcing by loudspeaker that the government’s tax-free markets are open. But the products are not free. Low-grade rice is selling for 720 Kyat (about 45 US cents) for one viss (1.6kg), vegetable oil for 2240 Kyat for one viss and a sheet of roofing zinc for 4500 Kyat. Fuel for generators is also available at a price. (Source: DVB, May 6)

Soldiers borrowing knives to cut trees

Soldiers have appeared on Rangoon’s streets as part of the clean up effort, the first time they have been seen on them since last September’s uprising. “We started to see soldiers on the streets since yesterday morning,” a Pazundaung resident said.

“They were clearing trees from the roads. But they didn’t have anything with them. They borrowed machetes from nearby houses and then cut. An officer called a fireman and then borrowed a car from the ward with which to supervise. Then they went to ask for chains from some shops with which to drag the trees off.”

(Source: NEJ, May 6)

Drinking water problems

In Rangoon the cost of a bottle of one variety of drinking water has gone from 300 Kyat to 800-1000 Kyat (at least 65 US cents), and drinking water has sold out completely in some places. There is still no running water supply of any sort as the power remains down. Some government vehicles are coming to distribute water but it is not enough and it’s down to luck if you get water or not. The number of municipal vehicles is no way sufficient for the city’s population of five million. There was a melee in Pazundaung township when locals saw municipal vehicles delivering water to military and civilian officials’ houses but not to them and they crowded around to demand water also. At 7pm on May 6 the municipal authorities announced that they will be reopening the water pipes, but because there is no power for the pumping stations only persons with their own generators will be able to draw it out. (Source: NEJ, May 6)

Paddy, crops destroyed

In Ma-ubin, a district capital in the delta only a few hours from Rangoon, houses have also been flattened and deaths confirmed. One boat disappeared while two en route with cargo to Rangoon were sunk. High numbers of casualties have been reported in Le-einsu village tract and Maletdoe and Htanni villages. Colleges and schools have had their rooves ripped open and windows shattered. Hundreds of acres of dry-season paddy that were ripened and ready for harvest have been utterly destroyed, as have banana, chili and betel nut plantations. No assistance has yet been received. (Source: DVB, May 7)

Casualty numbers

As has been reported by various sources, official casualty figures were on Tuesday night were put at 22,262 dead and 41,500 missing and counting. Most casualties were in Irrawaddy Division, 21,793 dead, 40,659 missing, the latter because of the tidal wave that accompanied the storm, sweeping entire villages along the coastline and rivers away in the manner of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami (when the same area of Burma was affected but lightly by comparison to countries to its east). In Rangoon the number of dead was Tuesday night put at 671 (not including those allegedly shot inside the prison) and 359 missing. But there have been smaller numbers of casualties reported further east that are not included in these figures yet, and there are areas in the border regions close to Thailand where there are no means of accurate assessment at all.


One response to ““Only three in ten are alive”

  1. Monks Aid Survivors, Authorities Sell Rooftops
    By WAI MOE, Wednesday, May 7, 2008, The Irrawaddy

    The survivors of tropical cyclone Nargis are trying to recover their lives and livelihoods almost without any help from the military government. However, Buddhist monks have emerged to come to the aid of many victims.

    Residents in Rangoon and the Irrawaddy delta town of Laputta who spoke to The Irrawaddy in the wake of the cyclone said that monks came out of their monasteries and offered assistance to survivors.

    “I saw monks in Rangoon, after the storm, distributing food to survivors,” a physician in the former capital said. “I also saw monks clearing up fallen trees and rebuilding houses.”

    A doctor in Laputta Township, one of the most seriously affected areas in the Irrawaddy delta, said that, after the storm, survivors went to monasteries for food and shelter because there was nowhere else providing aid. “Monks and young people in each town collected money and rice after the storm, and they cooked rice soup for the survivors,” he said.

    While Buddhist monks were striving to save lives and aid survivors, the Burmese military authorities were attempting to prevent the monks from getting involved in relief efforts. 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 authorities won’t allow people to take refuge in monasteries,” a journalist in Rangoon said. “They will only permit people to shelter in schools. Even if the monks want to distribute water to survivors, they have to get permission from the authorities.”

    State-run-newspapers and television have repeatedly shown images of high-ranking generals and officers helping survivors and handing out aid packages. However, many survivors in Rangoon have cast doubts on the state media’s reporting.

    “The newspapers said the ruling generals and troops encouraged and aided survivors,” a dentist in Rangoon told The 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.”

    Meanwhile, local authorities in Rangoon began distributing tin roofing materials on Tuesday— some three days after the disaster—but not for free. And first, rooftops were only being provided to those with military connections.

    “You are survivor. But if you want a new roof for your house, you need to pay 4,900 kyat (US $4.29) to the authorities for the materials,” said a housewife in Rangoon.

    “Then you are lucky—because what I see is that mostly relatives of local authorities buy those roofing materials and sell them on to ordinary people at an inflated price of 30,000 kyat ($26.3) per tin roof.”


    Survivors in Delta Still Waiting for Aid
    By SAW YAN NAING, Wednesday, May 7, 2008, The Irrawaddy

    Survivors of the cyclone and tidal wave that hit Laputta Township are still waiting for aid some five days later. They have no food or water, no electricity or telephone lines and many have reportedly died from injuries and lack of water in the aftermath of the storm.

    Aye Kyu, a Laputta resident who managed to get to Rangoon by road on Tuesday told The Irrawaddy that half of Laputta Township—specifically the coastal area—was completely flooded and he estimated that tens of thousands of people in Laputta have already died.

    Aye Kyu said that even survivors were dying for lack of food and water. Two days after the storm hit the Laputta Township in Irrawaddy Division, there were nothing to eat or drink, he said.

    He said that many villagers from outlying areas had traveled to Laputta town in the hope of finding food, water and shelter.

    Aye Kyu said, “Many survivors are now in Laputta town. Toilets are overflowing. If aid does not arrive soon, people will starve to death.”

    Many houses in the lower part of Laputta Township were hit by a huge tidal wave which destroyed everything in its path. Many people were killed immediately by the wave, he said.

    “Some people tried to escape by sitting on the top of their roofs,” Aye Kyu said. “But the tidal hit them and pulled them into the sea.”

    Survivors who have arrived in Laputta town are being assisted by youths and students. Some villagers are being sheltered at local monasteries and schools and some have been fed boiled rice, he said, adding that some soldiers have also arrived in Laputta town and joined the relief effort.

    “I beg both the government and international agencies to get emergency aid to Laputta as soon as possible,” said Aye Kyu.

    There were some 200,000 people living in Laputta Township, which is located at the southwestern point of the Irrawaddy delta.

    Meanwhile, state radio in Burma reported that at least 10,000 people have been killed in Bogalay town in Irrawaddy Division, some 50 miles (80 kilometers) east of Laputta on the southern coast. The report said 95 percent of the town had been destroyed.

    “Almost every house in Bogalay were completely leveled and the rooftops were blown away,” said a resident.

    A survivor in Mondine Gyi village in lower Bogalay Township said, “The tidal wave hit my house and totally submerged it. I saw bodies floating by while I held onto a piece of wood. My wife and children are still missing,” he added.

    In another town in the Irrawaddy delta, Maubin, thousands of rice paddies and fields of corn, bananas, chilis and other crops were destroyed. Local farmers estimated their losses to be in the hundreds of thousands of kyat. Sources said that no emergency assistance had reached the affected areas to date.

    Meanwhile, eight villages in a town in Irrawaddy delta called Dedaye, some 40 miles (64 kilometers) from Rangoon were totally destroyed.

    Speaking to The Irrawaddy by phone on Wednesday, an eyewitness said, “Dead bodies are floating in the lake. There is no food or drinking water. It has been four days but still no emergency aid has arrived.”

    Meanwhile, a statement released by Burma’s main opposition group, the National League for Democracy on Tuesday said that the death toll could be more than 100,000.

    The statement also condemned that military regime for ignoring the plight of cyclone victims and trying to push ahead with the national referendum on May 10.

    The Burmese military government has announced that some 22,500 people have killed to date while 41,000 are still missing. An estimated 1.7 million people have been left homeless.


    Burma’s Rice Region Decimated—Food Shortage Feared
    By MICHAEL CASEY / AP WRITER / BANGKOK, Wednesday, May 7, 2008, The Irrawaddy

    Burma’s rice-growing heartland has been devastated by Cyclone Nargis, experts said on Wednesday, posing worries of long-term food shortages for the secretive, impoverished country.

    The Rome-based UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that five states hit hardest by Saturday’s cyclone produce 65 percent of the country’s rice. The region also is home to 80 percent of its aquaculture, 50 percent of its poultry and 40 percent of its pig production, the FAO said.

    Of most concern is the rice production, since the impoverished country has produced enough to feed itself and, more recently, stave off the rising prices that have hit other parts of the region.

    “There is likely going to be incredibly shortages in the next 18 to 24 months,” said Sean Turnell, an economist specializing in Burma at Australia’s Macquarie University. “Things will be tough.”

    The world’s top rice producer before World War II, Burma has in the past four decades seen its rice exports drop from nearly 4 million tons per year to only about 600,000 tons this year.

    The country’s exports are so small these days that few expect the cyclone to have any impact on world rice prices.

    Mostly due to the mismanagement by the country’s ruling generals, the country’s road network and rice storage facilities have fallen into disrepair and such things as fertilizer and credit for farmers is almost nonexistent.

    Now, the country must confront the reality that entire rice-growing regions are under water. Many of the roads and bridges needed to transport what crop can be salvaged may have been destroyed by the cyclone.

    The UN World Food Program, which has started feeding the estimated 1 million homeless people in Burma, said there are immediate concerns about salvaging harvested rice in the flooded Irrawaddy delta, known as the country’s rice bowl. It also warned that the rice harvest in the Pegu Division could be lost since it was still in the ground, and future plantings in the delta could be threatened due to “salinity and decrease of nutrients” from the storm’s tidal surges.

    The FAO also predicted that annual crops of rice along with oil palm and rubber plantations “are expected” to be damaged in areas hit by the cyclone. They are sending in an assessment team in the coming days to have a closer look.

    “There is risk that stored rice seeds kept by farmers—usually under poor storage facilities—might be affected by the cyclone,” the FAO said in a statement. “Some rice crops under irrigation might be affected, if not yet harvested.”

    The cyclone, which battered the country last weekend with winds of 190 kph (120 mph) and 3.5 meter (11.48 feet) storm water surges, caused at least 22,000 deaths.

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