Tag Archives: Ayeyarwaddy

Food aid cut as crops fail in Irrawaddy delta

Sea-level farmlands like these have not recovered from Cyclone Nargis

A week ago the United Nations humanitarian news agency ran a telling interview with a survivor of Cyclone Nargis, the storm that devastated Burma in May.

The interviewee, a 62-year-old farmer whose daughter-in-law and granddaughter were killed in the cyclone, said that although after the disaster some monks gave her paddy seed with which to replant her fields, the crop has failed.

“Even with fertilizer, the plants simply didn’t take or died,” Aye Yin told a reporter from the IRIN news service. “Some say it’s because of the salt water that inundated much of our fields. I don’t know. In any case, it doesn’t matter now.”

To get a little income, her grandson now collects empty water bottles from the streets and sells them to recyclers. The family has also received some assistance from the World Food Programme, but Aye Yin says that it isn’t enough.

“Now all we worry about is how we will survive the coming months,” she said. “I pray we won’t starve to death.”

She is going to have to pray harder. In November, the WFP is set to scale back its work in Burma’s delta, from general to “targeted” distributing of rice. Continue reading

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Sailors detained for abandoning ship mid-cyclone

(Latest roundup of some Burmese language news reports on Cyclone Nargis; photo: a Light Infantry Division 77 “refugee relief camp” in Kunchangone; source: The Irrawaddy)

There are all sorts of news reports coming from Burma speaking to the twisted priorities that characterise dictatorship. Apart from holding a referendum and chasing after the usual internal and external destructive elements, authorities in the delta have according to Yoma 3 detained sailors who left their docked ships at the height of the cyclone. The news service reports that the naval officers and seamen jumped ship at the Thilawar Pier during the storm, as they like others had not been adequately warned of its approach. An unnamed naval officer told Yoma 3 that,

“Twenty-three men from those on vessel duty at Thilawar, including officers, have been detained at the Irrawaddy Naval Headquarters. It’s understood that they’re to be charged with abandoning ship. I know that some of them have been kept under house arrest. In the fierce storm some went ashore and took to high ground. Some also disappeared. It’s not known if they disappeared in the water or if they deserted and didn’t send word.”

Yoma 3 says that eight naval craft sunk during the storm although there has been no official comment on this, which has reportedly caused disgruntlement in the navy. The lost vessels were stationed at the Irrawaddy, Pyapon and Bogalay bases, among others. It also says that around 3000 naval families are believed to have had their homes damaged or destroyed in the cyclone and so far there has been no systematic effort to start rebuilding them.

Meanwhile, while Burma’s state newspapers are insisting that “some foreign news agencies [have] broadcast false information… that the Government has been rejecting and preventing aids for storm victims”, it’s not difficult to find specific complaints that it has been doing just that. Not only overseas donors but also those from within the country are encountering more obstacles. Continue reading

Citizens helping, officials hindering

(Latest roundup of some Burmese language reports following Cyclone Nargis

As the military regime in Burma continues to obstruct relief efforts from abroad, and especially hamper foreign staff of aid groups (see the latest news about this on The Irrawaddy) most of the news in Burmese language reports has been about the efforts of fellow citizens to help the victims of the disaster, the obstacles that government officials are also putting in their paths, and the lack of help getting through to some areas.

According to Yoma 3 News, monks in Mandalay who have been collecting items and money to donate to victims have been asked by the authorities there to donate through official channels, but have refused. A monk told Yoma 3 that

“We are collecting things at the Mandalay Maha Gandharyone Monastery. About four days back the divisional head came to the monastery and said to give them the things; that they would be delivered through them. The Gandharyone temple didn’t accept this.”

The items collected at the temple include clothes, clean water and rice. One lot of items had already been sent successfully and the temple is now preparing for a second round.

The efforts of Kyaw Thu’s social welfare group and comedian Zarganar together with some prominent actors and others have also been reported on.

However, there are still seriously affected areas where no aid has been received eleven days after the cyclone. According to the New Era Journal, in Kunchangone, which is only some 30 miles from Rangoon, virtually no help has arrived and there is now an outbreak of cholera.

An eyewitness from a group of private citizens who went to the riverside area about three miles from the town, including villages Kyunchaung, Kayan, Tawkyi, Tawkayan and Thonehkwa, told the journal that

“It’s totally demolished. Nothing can be done with the houses that are lying flattened on the ground. People are sitting around nearby looking. Nothing has arrived yet for rebuilding the rooves. No food or medicine has arrived yet. The corpses are just lined up along a steep hillside. Dead people, dead cows, dead buffaloes, none of the dead can be cleared away. There’s quite a stink. Up to yesterday there were clearly yet more washed up further along the riverbank.” Continue reading

Kindness of fellow citizens saves cyclone victims

(Update of some Burmese language reports of Cyclone Nargis’ aftermath)

In some seriously cyclone-damaged areas of the Irrawaddy Division, authorities have begun moving homeless survivors a few at a time to towns that escaped the eye of the storm, but have not prepared properly for them once they get there (while simultaneously blocking a massive waiting international aid effort, as has been reported across the international news).

According to the Yoma 3 News Service (Thailand), starting from May 8 survivors in Laputta, Bogalay, Mawkyun (Mawlamyaing Island) and Pyapon have been getting moved by boat in small groups to intact towns in other parts of the delta. In Bogalay, the township officials arranged for the relocating of 420 people to Wakema and have housed them in schools there. In total, 3000 people are to be put up in the market ward primary school, high school nos. 1 and 2, as well as Mintharkyi and U Boe Kyi schools.

However, one of the local residents told Yoma 3 by phone that,

“The authorities said that a thousand sacks of rice and four drums of oil are on their way. In the meantime, without being asked the locals, shopkeepers, townsfolk are together feeding them fried rice noodles and so on.”

Similarly, despite hundreds of refugees coming to Kyonemange, the township council chairman was still more interested in preparing for the May 10 constitutional referendum that the regime has insisted will go ahead despite international protest: Continue reading

Hospitals turning away patients

(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. Continue reading

“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.” Continue reading

47 townships, 22,000 dead?!

According to DVB and other sources, the latest state-run media reports put the revised death toll from Cyclone Nargis at least 22,000. DVB says that this figure was given on the radio today. To date the state-run news has not been updated on the government website.

State media has also announced that the May 10 referendum on a new constitution will be postponed in 47 townships until May 24 and will go ahead in the rest of the country.

The 47 townships as given by DVB are: Continue reading