« Last Friday, I was in Mameleke, a small village on the coast of the island of Pin Za Lu. I was there with a team of four people to rebuild the pontoons which were destroyed by the tsunami of 1984. We first heard about the cyclone from the official Myanmar radio station on Friday morning, 2 May. The radio said that it was moving towards Bangladesh so we didn't pay much attention. Then, around midday, the radio reported that the cyclone was moving directly towards Irrawady – our region. »
Around mid-afternoon, the wind became very violent. We found shelter in a rice warehouse built on top of solid wood pillars. 150 people took refuge there. At 18.30, the water started to rise. I was carrying my son of 11 on my back. I gripped a pillar and stayed there for four hours with my son on my back.
Around midnight the water started descending and I cried out "We are safe, we are safe!" Within an hour the water was back to its normal level. We started to walk to the nearest village in the dark. All the coconut palms had fallen to the ground and we saw no-one. Then we saw a house where only one wall remained standing. We stayed the rest of the night and it continued to rain. When dawn came, we saw that everything was destroyed. There were lifeless bodies and dead animals all around us. We were hungry. We found some rice in a nearby house and cooked it in sea water. We could find no fresh water but we drank a lot of coconut milk. There were many dead inside a church. We found 29 bodies. Most of them were women and children.
I walked another three hours and found a boat. In the evening we had a good meal in a village as they had cooked a joint from a dead buffalo. It was our first meal since Friday midday. The constant rain prevented us from sleeping.
On Sunday morning I found another boat with 12 litres of fuel. I took the direction of Eyardy village where four people from our organisation were working. The villagers who had taken refuge in a monastery told me that the four had survived and had left by board for Labutta.
I only had 4 litres of fuel left, just enough to reach the village of Tepai Ko Gyi where 10 other colleagues worked. All along the route we saw bodies in the trees or floating in the water. When we reached the village we found that all my work-mates had survived.
On Monday, the village leader agreed to take us by boat to Labutta, on condition that we help him find food. I arrived in Labutta at 3 in the afternoon. We saw lots of bodies that day, and oh, the smell – the smell of death!! There are about 50,000 inhabitants in Labutta. 120,000 people from the surrounding areas had taken refuge. In the town there was a huge pool from which people were temporarily drinking, but there were no toilets and no shelters. It was the inhabitants of Laputta who were feeding these people. There were many injured people but nothing to treat them with.
If help doesn't come soon, people will die of thirst and hunger ».
Teddy and his young son arrived in Yangon late afternoon on Tuesday, 6 May.
Teddy is the Deputy Director of a Burmese humanitarian organisation.
Pin Za Lu is one of the zones which took the full impact of the cyclone and were most of the inhabitants are reported missing.
Story told to Bernard Delpuech, Humanitarian expert from the European Commission in Yangon, 7 May, 2008
On Monday, 5 May, the European Commission adopted a fast-track humanitarian emergency decision for €2 million to meet the most immediate needs. The European Commission Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO) has been present in Myanmar for several years. This has enabled direct access to information on the situation, and has enabled it to react quickly. The funding provided by the European Commission is channelled through its humanitarian partners already present in the field and will go directly to the population. The head of the ECHO office in Yangon, Bernard Delpuech, has been based in Myanmar for three years and knows the country well. He is working with the partners to identify the needs and priorities. The team has now been reinforced by three other experts coming from our humanitarian offices in Bangkok and New Delhi.