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Dispatch From Burma (#2)

June 05, 2008

Nargis_01_may_2008_0440z_2A few weeks back I posted this excerpt from an eyewitness report submitted by an anonymous contributor to the Asia Foundation's blog, In Asia. According to the frequently updated Wikipedia entry for Nargis, the official death toll from the cyclone stands at 90,000, with at least 50,000 people still missing. However, some observers claim the government has simply stopped counting the dead and that as many as a million people have or will die as a result of the storm and the Burmese government's shameful neglect of the survivors.

Here's the first part of a harrowing followup dispatch from the Asia Foundation's on-the-ground correspondent:

Rangoon, Burma -- One month has passed since Cyclone Nargis hit Rangoon and the Delta region of Burma. Electricity is back on at the house where I am staying in Rangoon, though the phone-line is still down. Monsoon season has begun and it rains heavily almost every day -– dark and angry storms that threaten to drown the city in a daily deluge as murky waters rise up from the overburdened sewage systems.

Solid information about the situation in the Delta area is still frustratingly hard to come by due to restricted access. At UN cluster meetings, agencies and NGOs struggle to put together a comprehensive overview of which communities in the affected areas have been reached and where the gaps in aid coverage are. Behind the misinformation and rumours that are circulating, there is a fear that the situation may be even worse than anyone has yet conceived.

A few days ago, I met a 45-year-old fisherman who comes from a small Delta town south of the hard-hit Laputta area. He travelled to Rangoon last week with a cousin who needed extensive surgery after being battered by bricks and other debris during the cyclone. The fisherman sat very still during our conversation and often lapsed into long silences. He lost his wife and two young daughters to the storm, and has not been able to find their bodies. In his village of 2,000 people only about 175 survived....

Click here to read the dispatch in its entirety.

-- Mitch Nauffts

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