(Update of some Burmese language reports on Cyclone Nargis’ aftermath)
Hospitals in Rangoon are being forced to turn away patients because of a lack of electricity and water. According to an employee at the general hospital (pictured above, in happier times), who spoke to Thailand-based Yoma 3 News by phone,
“There are only two power lines. The radiotherapy department had to discharge 30 patients because it has no electricity. Because of transport problems patients can’t get to the outpatients department (either).”
On last Sunday a pregnant woman going in to labour was refused admission to the emergency department and referred to the SSC special medical centre. Because the centre had no water the patient had to buy bottled water outside and give it in order to get treated.
The upper floor wards of the general hospital have been damaged by the storm. The roof was hit by trees but up to now there have been no repairs. According to another ministry employee, the operations ward and natal ward have been badly damaged and patients cannot be admitted to them.
Hospitals are also running short of medicines and had so far received no fresh supplies to cope with the disaster.
Research facilities in Dagon, greater Rangoon, were also hit and large stocks of bone marrow, tissue and so on are all now worthless because there has been no refrigeration since the storm.
Officials trying to drive homeless out of Rangoon
Ward council officials in Rangoon are trying to force villagers who have lost their homes and come to seek shelter in the city to go back on the pretext that the forecast is for fine weather. About 600 cyclone refugees who came into South Dagon ward 105 on May 5 are being told to leave the ward religious hall (Dhamma Hall) and Primary School No. 25. One of them told Yoma 3 that although people protested that they haven’t made repairs to houses and there’s no food in the villages, the officials replied that,”The weather’s fine again and you can’t stay, it’s District Council orders.” (Source: Yoma 3, May 8)
Homeless couple hit for speaking against referendum
Despite the affects of Cyclone Nargis, government officials in Rangoon have carried on threatening people to vote Yes in the forthcoming referendum just like previously. The day before Nargis made landfall, officials were out in villages in Rangoon Division, including Kyanbin, Tarpa and Kwinbauk, handing out imitation ballots with green ticks and details of the voter on the back. Despite the cyclone, on May 5 a group of officials led by a local fire chief named Thaung Htun assembled people in Hlaingthayar and (or) Shwepyithar industrial areas on the outskirts of Rangoon, and amid the wreckage and utter poverty insisted that they support the draft constitution. When a person present couldn’t contain his anger and yelled that there is no way he will support the military government, Thaung Htun hit him. Then when the man’s wife said that he had shouted out not from hatred but from depression that their house had been destroyed in the storm, Thaung Htun hit her too. She had to be taken to the Shwepyithar outpatients department where she was given seven stitches to the wound. (Source: RFA, May 7)
High risk of disease from decomposing corpses in Irrawaddy
The large number of corpses in the Irrawaddy Delta that still cannot be recovered and cremated due to high water levels is posing a serious risk of contagious disease. According to a resident of Laputta who spoke to VOA, there are bodies floating in all the streams and rivers, including the Pyanhlwa, Yway and Pyinzalu Rivers. Some people have collected bodies and cremated their family members themselves. Drinking water supplies, including around 200 ponds, have been polluted not only by decaying bodies but also because the salt water flooded into them. (Source: VOA, May 7)
Deaths, damage and referendum threats in Pegu
Pegu, northeast of Rangoon, escaped serious damage but in surrounding areas there has been damage and people have been killed. Five women in Waw died when the vehicle they were travelling in overturned, another person when hit by flying timber. In Pegu, most damage consists of fallen trees and powerlines, and ripped-open rooves. In Zithi village at least 40 houses were destroyed. The inhabitants survived because they had gone to shelter in a monastery. Around two-thirds of houses have been damaged in Kawa, Thekkalat, Kyarsihpu, Kakawtkanote, Pyawbwe, Paukbin, Paukgan and Thayetkone villages. However, police and local council officials are still going around to warn people to vote Yes in the constitutional referendum that will be held on Saturday. (Source: DVB, May 7)
Climbing death toll doesn’t yet include Laputta
As has been widely reported in international news, the US ambassador has suggested that the total number of dead could finally exceed 100,000. Last night, the official government figures were 22,980 dead and 42,119 missing. But these figures have not yet accounted for many areas, including Laputta, which was among the worst-hit areas in the delta, where in the town itself only one person was counted as dead and around a thousand in the township as a whole. According to a doctor who came from the town to Rangoon yesterday, the storm hit the town from every side and the swamped it in 12 feet of seawater, causing the entire lower side of town (on the waterfront) to be submerged. Many people died when they climbed onto the rooves of larger houses and buildings and these too collapsed. However, surrounding fields and salt flats were worse effected by flooding. Out of families of seven or eight people from surrounding areas, perhaps one or two members have survived. Pinzalu, Thingankyi and Yway villages were among the worst hit. There are corpses in the rivers, on embankments, and entangled in or hanging from trees and palms. A person from Pinzalu estimated that out of the 4-5000 people residing there before, perhaps 2-300 have survived. (Source: DVB interview with Dr Aye Kyu, May 7, part 1, part 2)