Friday, 16 May 2008

Cyclone Survivors Told to Return to Shattered Homes

Children reach their hands out to receive a free banana from a local donor on the outskirts of Rangoon on Wednesday. (Photo: AP)

The Irrawaddy News

Nearly 2,000 cyclone survivors still sheltering in monasteries, religious buildings and schools in one Rangoon township have been told by the authorities to return to what is left of their homes by May 20.

The order was confirmed by one resident of the affected township, South Dagon Myothit, who asked: “Where will the survivors live?” Angered by the official order, Ko Pauk said: “Their homes were destroyed by the cyclone. The authorities are really stupid.”

Some survivors were being assigned to a relief camp of some 50 tents, but Ko Pauk pointed out that it couldn’t accommodate all.

In the devastated Irrawaddy delta town of Laputta, meanwhile, survivors are being moved from a local temple and a religious building to a camp set up on a football ground. The survivors had sought refuge at the Suu Taung Pyi temple and a township dhamma building.

Aye Kyu, a member of the opposition National League for Democracy’s disaster relief committee in the township, said the camp had about 60 tents with accommodation for some 1,000 people.

“The authorities are now trying to relocate about 10,000 people. How are so many people going to live in a camp intended for 1,000?” he asked.

Meanwhile, a medical worker in Laputta Township, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that the authorities had stopped a local relief group of young people and private donors from distributing aid.

“While the group was preparing to distribute rice and curry for people, a military officer came and ordered to them stop their work,” he said. “The reason isn’t clear.”

Local staffers from two international medical organizations, Medicins Sans Frontieres and Merlin are operating two clinics in Laputta.

Children who survived the cyclone may have to continue their schooling in relief camps and tents when the new term begins on June 1 because 85 percent of the schools in the region had been destroyed or damaged, the UN said Wednesday, according to The Associated Press.

UNICEF said there is no time to rebuild the estimated 2,700 severely damaged primary schools attended by 350,000 students or to replace the unknown numbers of teachers killed or missing in the cyclone.

Voting in the national referendum that had been postponed in 40 townships in Rangoon Division and seven townships in Irrawaddy Division will be held on May 24, but will have little effect on the final outcome, which the junta says gives it overwhelming approval of its proposed constitution.

State media announced on Thursday that 20,786,596, or 92.4 percent of the enfranchised electorate, had voted in favor of the constitution, while 1,375,480 voted against. The referendum was held amid charges of massive vote-rigging, bribery and intimidation of voters.

No comments: