Some swept away from their rooftops Survivors recall horror of cyclone in MyanmarMay 09, 2008 IT came up from the sea like a giant dragon.
Winds of nearly 200kmh hissed at the flimsy rooftops. Those that remained were flattened by a wave of water that followed.
'Many of my friends and colleagues were killed. Locations near the sea were totally flooded,' a resident in Laputta told The Irrawady newspaper.
He was recalling the horrors of the cyclone that hit Myanmar on Saturday.
'The water level went up by three metres. 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.'
Laputta is located at the south-western point of the Irrawady delta. It was one of the first coastal areas to be hit by the cyclone. About 200,000 people live in Laputta Township.
'I think 95 per cent of Laputta 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,' the source told the paper.
According to latest reports, more than 22,000 people died and 42,000 went missing when Cyclone Nargis slammed into the country's western coast.
Mr Aye Kyu, a Laputta resident who managed to get to Yangon by road on Tuesday told The Irrawaddy he estimated that tens of thousands of people in Laputta are dead.
'Some people tried to escape by sitting on the top of their roofs,' he said. 'But the tidal wave hit them and pulled them into the sea.'
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.'
Speaking to The Irrawaddy by phone yesterday, 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.'
An Al Jazeera correspondent visited a region about 60km from Yangon. She found entire villages and factories flattened by the storm.
Al Jazeera did not want to give the name or location of its correspondent to protect her safety.
'We interviewed farmers we interviewed ordinary village folk and they tell us that no one has come to help them since the cyclone struck,' the correspondent said.
'We also visited a monastery where monks have lost their entire living quarters. They have no food and they have handicapped children to look after.
'The very sad story is that the villagers can't give them any food because they don't have any food themselves.'
Local residents said they had received no warnings of the approaching storm despite reports that the government had been given two days notice that the storm was on its way.
London's Daily Telegraph painted the painful picture of a young woman who has been left homeless by the cyclone. The woman whose husband is in jail sat in the ruins of her bamboo home with a toddler on her knee, cooking her last meal on an open fire.
'I bought some dried fish before the storm, but there is enough only for today,' she said. 'I don't know what I will do tomorrow.'
She is one of the million people estimated to have been left homeless by cyclone Nargis.
The woman, who asked not to be named, said she had received no assistance from the military regime.
'I have not had anything from the government nor do I expect anything from the government,' she said. 'All I need is my hut. I want a place to stay.'
Myanmar-based aid groups were distributing essential relief supplies in the region, said Mr Richard Horsey, Bangkok-based spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid.
This included water purification tablets, mosquito nets, plastic sheeting and basic medical supplies. But heavily flooded areas were accessible only by boat, with helicopters unable to deliver relief supplies there, he told AP.
'Basically the entire lower delta region is under water. Teams are talking about bodies floating around in the water,' he said. This is 'a major, major disaster we're dealing with.',00.html

Myanmar cyclone survivor gives birth to 11th child; 7 die

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 03:41:00 05/09/2008

LABUTTA, BURMA—As corpses lay rotting alongside the bloated carcasses of animals, haunted survivors of last weekend’s cyclone told how entire families were dragged to their deaths by head-high waves—and how their own survival often depended on the branch of a tree.
Huddled in the township of Labutta, they told tales of survival against the odds even as children, mothers and fathers were swept away by the floodwaters that submerged huge swathes of the Irrawaddy delta.
Than Win, 41 years old and eight months pregnant, survived by climbing a tree as the water rose around her house, drowning seven of her 10 children.
In a makeshift clinic set up amid the rubble, she gave birth to her 11th child, a boy she called Chit Oo Mg.
It means “first love.”
“After what happened, this is a beautiful present,” she said, clutching her newborn son in her arms.
One teenage survivor told Agence France-Presse: “The waves were so strong, they ripped off all my clothes. I was left naked hanging in a tree.”
20-foot flood
Witnesses said Saturday’s cyclone, packing winds of 190 kph, had left the region once dubbed the “Rice Bowl of Asia” submerged under 20-foot waters higher than the treetops.
When the storm surge struck his village, fisherman Zaw Win clung to a tree for three hours.
The strength in his arms saved his life. He could only watch helplessly as his wife, 10-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter were carried off by the waves.
“I just held on and cried. I knew I’d lost my family,” the 32-year-old told Reuters.
Of his coastal village of 2,000 people, just 40 survived, he said.
Floating corpses
To get to safety, Zaw Win had to wade through floating corpses before finding a boat to carry him for two hours through devastated swampland.
His was just one of the many harrowing tales told by survivors paddling their way out of the delta in splintered wooden boats.
Fisherman Kyaw Way, managed to lift his wife, 10-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter into a tamarind tree. His other children, a girl of 8 and boy of 6, were missing.
“The house was blown over and then the waves came, getting higher and higher,” Waysaid. “We were in the tree from eight [in the morning] to about midnight.”
One of the few structures in the town to survive the onslaught was a newly built concrete bridge. People say it saved 2,000 lives.
About 80,000 died here
U Zaw Mia, 68, clung on to the wooden column in the center of his house until his sons dragged him to the relative safety of the bridge. He almost wished they hadn’t.
“I was shouting at them that I wanted to die in my house,” he said.
Labutta, surrounded by 63 small villages dependent on fishing and salt mining, was one of the worst-hit areas.
Based on stories emerging from the countryside, only about 20 percent of people in the area survived, Labutta residents said.
A military official in Labutta estimated 80,000 dead there alone, and many families said most of their relatives had been killed.
“The storm came into our village, and a giant wave washed in, dragging everything into the sea,” said one man in his 20s. “Houses collapsed, buildings collapsed, and people were swept away. I only survived by hanging on to a big tree.”
“Only about 20 percent of the people survived in our village. I am the only one who survived in my family. My wife and my two children died in the storm.”
Shell-shocked and crying
One shell-shocked woman was unable to stop her tears.
“No one is left in my immediate family,” she said. “I also lost many brothers and sisters and their families.”
Another woman saw her one-year-old baby die, and was trying to seek comfort with other survivors.
“We sit and talk about our lost ones together and cry, and then we stop again to think how we can cope with this hardship,” she said.
Orphans, widows, grieving parents, monks—their faces blank and staring—sat on the floor of temporary shelters awaiting assistance as conditions became increasingly desperate, with no drinking water, toilets or medicine.
If food, water and medicine do not reach Labutta soon, doctors and aid agencies say the death toll will keep growing.
Poisoned water
“People here need emergency assistance for basic needs like water, food, medicine and a sanitation system immediately,” said a local doctor.
“Drinking water wells in the villages are spoiled. The corpses of people and animals are still unburied.”
Storm survivors queued for their meager ration—a bag of rice soup provided by a volunteer group—at a Labutta temple.
Ye Tun said he came from one of the outlying villages as he feared starvation if he stayed at home.
“After the storm, we had no food, no water and we faced starvation. That’s why we came to this town. We were starving until now,” he said.
But he still may not be safe, even in the current haven of Labutta.
Local residents have donated rice, medicine and drinking water, volunteers say, but without outside assistance, soon supplies will run out.
“We don’t think we can handle feeding these people for more than two days,” said one 50-year-old local trader.
“We need to cook more than 10 rice bags to feed people every day.”

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BURMA Death Toll Worse than Tsunami, could top 500,000 deaths