RFA Burmese service has reported that the do-it-yourself cyclone response imposed on the already long-suffering people of Burma has claimed more lives. Around 4pm on May 19 four boats carrying Cyclone Nargis refugees from Bogalay sank in heavy rain and rough seas, the station has reported. One sank near Bhyonehmway Island, another two near Kantayar Pier and the other near Kaingtawwa village, it said.
The boats were believed to be carrying around 300 people and sacks of rice grain. The vessel that went down near Bhyonehmway Island had two Red Cross workers on board along with many former residents of Kyeinlonegyi village who had come to Bogalay for shelter and had been paid off by officials to leave. So far there are no figures on numbers of dead but the casualties are expected to be high. According to a local who spoke to RFA
“All these passengers were villagers who had left Bogalay having arrived as refugees there. Each household got 20,000 cash (about US$17) and eight pyi (about 2 litres) of rice grain then the military forced them to go back to their villages. Yesterday they got caught in a storm leaving Bogalay and the ships sank killing the lot.”
The interviewee told RFA that the authorities in Bogalay on May 19 began clearing out the monasteries and schools of people still taking refuge after the cyclone. Some people think that they are doing this to get people back to their areas to complete voting in the referendum, while others think that it may be that they want to clear up the town to be able to show it to the UN Secretary General when he visits the country shortly. According to residents speaking to RFA, the situation in the town is getting worse by the day and there has still been no systematic and effective distribution of aid to the thousands of persons who have come there for help. There are, as in other places, outbreaks of disease and private donors trying to assist are suffering interference from government officials.
There are no other reports to confirm the news broadcast on RFA, but the May 19 weather report in The Mirror (pictured above) states that the forecast was for heavy rain and high seas on parts of the coastline with 40-45mph winds. On May 20 it reported that there was strong monsoon weather across the Bay of Bengal.