Eye witness: Burma 'unbelievably' dire

An AFP reporter made the difficult journey between Burma\’s main city Rangoon and the southern delta hardest hit by Cyclone Nargis.


Here is the correspondent\’s eyewitness account of the tragic scene, from the bodies of whole families roped together to the suffering of hungry survivors running out of hope.

Eye witness account

Thousands of desperate people line both sides of the road, and more keep coming out by the hour. They are just standing there, outside their ruined houses, waiting for help from the government.

And it\’s not coming.

They are hungry and thirsty. Their faces are strained and scared, and you can see many of them have hardly eaten a thing for days.

Breast-feeding mothers hold their children in one arm – and stretch the other out to beg.

People don\’t even have pots any more – they were washed away with everything else in the storm. So they couldn\’t cook food if or when they could get any.

The road has been cleared of most of the debris, but there are still electrical poles across it in some places.

Occasionally there\’s a government convoy that whizzes past, four-wheel drives in convoys of six vehicles. They don\’t stop.

The junta says that it is distributing aid by helicopter, but I have only seen one chopper in three days. It was on the ground – being repaired.

The people on the roadside say they haven\’t seen anyone from the government delivering supplies.

\’Unbelievably grim\’

The situation is unbelievably grim.

Today it rained heavily, and most of the people have no proper shelter. They sat under umbrellas, just waiting.

Sometimes well-wishers, mostly Buddhist and Muslim groups, turn up to give out food. Normally cooked rice and noodles, some biscuits. Some were giving out lollies and candles.

But when they open their lorries and begin to hand out food, soldiers come to take some of it. Not to distribute – the soldiers were taking it to eat themselves.

I suppose they must be hungry, too.

More than a week after this awful tragedy, there are still a lot of unburied corpses out in the open.

Along the Pyapon River, I saw dozens of them.

I saw a family of four who were tied together, floating in the water. They must have tried to secure themselves before the cyclone hit. Perhaps it was the water and not the wind, that got them.

It\’s clear that when the waves came, people had no place to run.

The bodies are now bloated – rotting and turning black. They\’re still there, next to the corpses of water buffalo.

People walk by and ignore them. They are just going about their business. They are just trying to stay alive.