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'Eighty Thousand People Deadí, Cholera Cases Reported
By AUNG THET WINE, The Irrawaddy, May 9, 2008
An Irrawaddy correspondent has returned from the delta area after interviewing military officers, government officials, medical personnel and survivors of Cyclone Nargis
Bogalay, Myanmar -- An army major with the Irrawaddy Division military headquarters who asked not to be identified said on Wednesday more than 600 villages are submerged in the Irrawaddy delta along Cyclone Nargis’ deadly path.
<< 95% of Bogalay city has been wiped out
The worst-hit areas are Bogalay, Laputta, Mawlamyaing Gyun and Pyapon townships where, he said, more than 80,000 people have died and more than 700,000 people are homeless.
Local medical personnel said some survivors from Kyein Kyi Chaung village in Bogalay have died of cholera. Cholera has also occurred among some survivors from Laputta. The government has been transferring Laputta refugees to Myang Mya Township daily, according to an army officer.
“The cholera outbreak has begun,” said one medical worker. “People have nothing to drink so they drink water from the creeks and rivers. So that is how the outbreak began.
“These waterways are dirty because they are littered with bodies and animals. The survivors know the water is dirty, but they have no other choice and have had to drink the dirty water. That’s how they contracted cholera.
“This is the time for us to stock up on cholera medicine for the possibility of an outbreak in the near future. However, we do not have enough medicine.”
Bogalay was the hardest-hit township with the highest death toll, believed to be around 50,000 people. The military officer said the second largest death toll was in Laputta, with Pyapon third in the number of fatalities.
“Laputta had nearly 20,000 deaths,” he said.
An army officer with Light Infantry 66 who has been involved in relief efforts said:
“A total of 142 villages went under water in Bogalay Township. The majority of the people in these villages have died. Only a few survived. For instance, Khaing Shwe Wa village in Kyun Thaya Dai Nel (village tract) had about 400 people before the cyclone; now they have only four people left. So you can say that the whole village was wiped out.”
All 50 villages in Kyun Thaya Dai Nel located between Meinmahla Kyun and Kadonkana islands southwest of Boglay are submerged. (The villages include Mi Laung Gwin, Kapanan, Yei Kyaw Gyi, Chaung Phye, Gway Chaung, Khaing Shwe Wa, Danyinphyu, inner and outer parts of Khaung Gyi Island, Buyakyaung, Hmon Tine Gyi, Hmon Tine Lay, Tayaw Chaung, Pulonetaing, Ashe-mae, Kantmalar, Chachee Island village, Thakinma Gyi, Thitpoke village, Letwel Gyi, Kyat Pyay and Thamadi).
Thirty-three villages located in the Kyein Chaung Gyi village tract about 40 miles (64 kilometers) west of Bogalay were wiped out, including Shwe Htoo, Lamu Oat Gyi, Lamu Oat Lay, Ma Kyin Myaing, Hlay Lone Kwe, Arr-makhan, Japan Island and Lay Gwa.
The officer from Light Infantry 66 said thousands of people were rescued in recent days from villages where the water level has gone down.
Local residents said many people have seen no relief supplies during the past six days following the disaster. People do not know where to go to seek help, and they are in desperate need of safe drinking water, food and medicine.
A government officer with the Maternal and Child Care Association serving Laputta and Pyapon said there is widespread fear of diseases such as malaria, diarrhea and cholera because of dead bodies that litter the area and unsanitary living conditions.
A resident in the Kadon village tract who has been involved in the relief effort, said: “We are using May Kha, a double-deck boat; Thuria, a long-tale boat; and local fishing boats known as jote (30-35 feet long) in our efforts to find survivors.”
Another soldier with Light Infantry 66 said, “There is not even a trace of a village left after the water has receded; they are just open, empty places now. There are thousands of decaying corpses around islands, villages and along the waterfronts. There is no one to cremate the bodies.”
A rescue worker said: “There’s a pile of dead bodies amounting to hundreds in and around Mein Ma Hla Island. The waterfront along this area is littered with bodies, carcasses of live stock, buffaloes, cupboards, furniture and other household materials.
There are so many corpses that it is impossible to bury them.
“Even at the Irrawaddy jetty in Bogalay, the locals have had to pick up 30 to 40 dead bodies floating in the water daily. We went on a rescue mission to a place about 60 miles from Bogalay and saw countless bodies floating in the water.”
A soldier from Light Infantry 66 said the government has opened shelters for refugees at Bogalay Education College, state high schools Nos1 and 2 and state middle school Nos 1 and 2.
“Some 50 monasteries in the areas have opened shelters for the victims of the cyclone,” he said. “There are some 70,000 refugees in these shelters. These shelters can no longer cope with the growing number of people. The government has also set up shelters in Ma-u-ban Township. They are using double-deck boats in the rescue efforts and transferring victims, close to 1,000 a day, to these shelters.”
Local medical service personnel say many people have serious injuries; they are turning away people with minor injuries because they can not cope with the numbers.
Part of Bogalay Hospital was destroyed in the cyclone, including the delivery room, operating theater, OPD and several wards.
The cyclone destroyed 90 percent of Bogalay, said officials. There are only two working telephones reserved for emergency purposes.
An official from Boglay Township Maternal and Child Care Association said, “Soldiers from Division 66 and an engineering regiment from Taunggo have arrived for rescue efforts. But we have not been able to distribute enough food and water to the victims.
“The longer we have to wait for aid the more people will die. I have so far seen only a few UN personnel and groups working under the UN.”
Recently, officials said the government started distributing three egg-sized potatoes and one condensed milk tin of rice per survivor in villages around Bogalay and 8 tins of rice per household to families in Bogalay.
A soldier said, “To provide supplies sufficient for the victims, we will need between 1,200 and 1,500 rice sacks daily for survivors in and around Bogalay. Now we are distributing what little supply we have.”
Local officials said they do not have enough rice to feed some 200,000 people in villages destroyed or submerged in Laputta Township; it is providing rice soup instead.
According to Phyapon residents, 46 villages have totaled disappeared and more than 10,000 people have died in their area.
A journalist in Rangoon said many people arriving in the former capital show signs of psychological problems.
“I’d like to urge the government as well as the international community to speed up the rescue and relief work,” he said. “This sort of situation does not require an order from the military. There’s no need to wait for an order from the military. Just one day delay can cause the loss of hundreds of lives.
“It’s already been a week since the cyclone and little has been done effectively. If there is going to be more delay, many more lives will be lost unnecessarily. I want everyone to hurry.”