Please pray for Myanmar:
EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT: BODIES BEING THROWN INTO RIVER
in Bogalay, Myanmar
Homeless children watched on Tuesday as solemn men unceremoniously dropped dead bodies into the river of this southern Myanmar township.
The funeral-like procession to the river was one of many disturbing images of the destruction left by Myanmar’s deadly cyclone, which could be seen everywhere in Bogalay.
The estimated 240km/h winds spared only four of the 369 houses in a village here.
The nationwide death toll was estimated at more than 22,000. Almost half of the total death toll could have come from Bogalay, according to China’s state-run news agency, Xinhua.
Many of the survivors have been left with nothing. They sat in roofless homes, with parasols as their only protection from the rain that continued to fall. One family who sat in the remains of their home – shreds of the roof and walls littered the floor – said they only had enough food to last a couple of days. We could see their meagre supply of eggs and rice.
New supplies will be hard to come by after the storm destroyed the area’s mills, leaving only about a five-day supply of usable rice, locals said. Water pumps were also ruined, and fuel is scarce. Monasteries were being used as temporary shelters for hundreds of people left homeless. At one, there were about 600 people sleeping where they could.
Many had lost someone they loved. Some sat with bleak, numb stares as small piles of food were guarded by young apprentice monks.
The monks said they have food for two days. After that, they say, they have no answer.
Another monastery was called an operating theatre, but there were no medical supplies. One man sat with open wounds, blood running down his back.
Members of the military could be seen all over Bogalay on Tuesday, some trying to cut through fallen trees. International aid groups are waiting for the Myanmar government’s approval to enter the country.
But the worry here in Bogalay, south of the former capital Yangon, was how relief workers would be able to cross the difficult tropical terrain to reach victims.
The journey to the town is very difficult – criss-crossed by rivers and lush patches of trees. It is punctuated by few roads, many clogged by debris.
Also, there is concern that areas to the south of Bogalay could have suffered even more because they are low delta lands that were hit first.
Meanwhile, Bogalay’s survivors wait and try to put the pieces of their lives back together.
Dan Rivers is CNN International’s Bangkok-based correspondent, currently reporting from cyclone-devastated Bogalay.
Update from TODAY newspaper today :
AID TRICKLES INTO MYANMAR
Relief planes waiting to fly in as junta opens doors – slightly, reluctantly
BANGKOK – As relief efforts started to reach the first of an estimated million people left homeless by last week’s devastating cyclone that ravaged the coast of reclusive Myanmar, more planes sat on runways outside the country awaiting permission to fly in, a spokesman for the World Food Programme (WFP) said.
The planeloads of supplies and heavy equipment needed to help the victims provide a potent symbol of a much-larger relief effort waiting to begin – six days after Cyclone Nargis spawned widespread death and destruction.
“Assistance is trickling in, but nowhere near the quantities needed immediately on the ground,” said WFP spokesman Paul Risley, as the first United Nations relief flight landed in Yangon yesterday.
UN head of emergency relief John Holmes told the BBC that 30 countries had offered assistance, adding up to well over US$30 million ($41.2 million). This included a US$200,000 humanitarian aid package from
Singapore by a SilkAir flight bound for Myanmar on Wednesday. Other non-government organisations such as the Singapore Red Cross and Mercy Relief are also standing by with volunteers and supplies.
French and American naval ships, helicopters and transport planes were also on standby to help as the death toll kept mounting – from an initial 351 to an official 23,000 when the killer cyclone battered the country’s low-lying delta region last Saturday.
But a military official in the delta township of Labutta estimated 80,000 deaths there alone and many families there told an AFP reporter that most of their relatives had been killed.
Said one man in his 20s: “A giant wave washed in, dragging everything into the sea. Houses collapsed, buildings collapsed and people were swept away. I only survived by hanging on to a big tree.” His wife and two children died.
“The waves were so strong they ripped off all my clothes. I was left naked hanging in a tree,” said one teenager.
A top United States diplomat in the country said the toll could surpass 100,000, with one aid official even estimating that it may reach a high of 150,000.
Even as decomposing bodies littered ditches and fields, relief agencies say, the military junta has been slow to issue visas to relief workers and grant relief flights permission to land. Their reluctance to allow foreign experts and dedicated relief flights into the country has caused intense frustration and compounded the misery for survivors in desperate need of food and water.
Without transport and fuel, aid arriving piecemeal on commercial flights cannot be distributed effectively in the devastated Irrawaddy Delta region in southern Myanmar.
“The bottle-neck is getting (aid) out in the delta. That needs boats, helicopters, trucks… there are upward of one million people in need of help,” said UN spokesman Richard Horsey.
Echoing calls from Washington and the UN, Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) chief Surin Pitsuwan told reporters in Jakarta that the grouping was trying to persuade Myanmar to open its borders.
”All of us in Asean are trying to talk” to the junta, he said. ”We expect to get permission and opening” of borders for aid deliveries soon.
China also urged the generals to drop their normal belligerence towards outside intervention and cooperate for the sake of the millions affected by the catastrophe.
“Given the magnitude of the disaster in Myanmar, the international community has expressed concern and willingness to provide assistance,” foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters.
“This is natural and we hope Myanmar will cooperate with the international community and have consultations with the international community.”
Even if they win permission to launch a full-scale relief effort, aid organisations face tremendous logistical problems including flooded roads, scarce fuel supplies, and a shortage of boats as many were destroyed in the storm. – AGENCIES
Singapore’s relief effort
To help the victims of Cyclone Nargis, send donations to the Singapore Red Cross at 15 Penang Lane, or call 6334 9152/53 for more information.
The public can also call Mercy Relief at 1900 112 1010 for a $10 donation, or 1900 112 1050 for a $50 donation. Crossed cheques made out to “Mercy Relief Limited” can be sent to 172 Pasir Panjang Road, Singapore 118558. Mercy Relief also accepts transfers via ATM or through Internet banking.
Its DBS account number is 054-900493-6.
World Vision is also collecting donations. Besides ATM funds transfer to its DBS Autosave Account (001-030600-6) or its Standard Chartered Bank Fusion Account (130-830-6900), the public can also send cash or cheques made out to “World Vision International” to its office at 10 Anson Road, #13-08, International Plaza, Singapore 079903.
Staff and students from the Singapore Polytechnic (SP) have been mobilised to raise funds for the victims. Apart from collecting cash donations from staff and students, SP has also sought approval from the Red Cross to collect donations from the public. All collections will be channelled to the Singapore Red Cross. SP staff can also donate via SP’s intranet.