Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Refugees Return to Relief Centers in Laputta

Cyclone Nargis victims prepare to leave the Central Relief Camp after the authorities decided to close the camp in Kawhmu Township of Rangoon Division on June 2. All of them are supposed to leave the camp by Tuesday but many said that their villages are still flooded and inhabitable. (Photo: Reuters)

The Irrawaddy News

Thousands of cyclone survivors who were forcibly expelled from relief centers in Laputta over the last two weeks have returned, according to volunteer groups and local residents in Laputta Township.

This comes after international aid workers had said that cyclone survivors who had taken refuge in shelters were being driven out of towns by the local authorities and dumped in rural areas with no aid or supplies.

Sources said it was apparent the military government wanted the victims back in their villages repairing their houses and preparing their land for agriculture.

According to a local resident, however, congregating the refugees in relief centers made it easier for international aid organizations and local donors to distribute food, shelter and medical care.

Having returned from Laputta, Ohn Kyaing, the spokesperson for a relief team sponsored by the opposition National League for Democracy, said on Monday that thousands of cyclone victims had just returned and were sheltering at Layhtat monastery in Laputta, where some 7,000 survivors had taken refuge shortly after Cyclone Nargis hit the region on May 2-3.

Ohn Kyaing said that, in some cases, the authorities had again expelled the refugees who had just made their way back to Laputta from the places they had been driven to.

“The authorities called to the survivors by loudspeaker to return to their devastated villages,” said Ohn Kyaing. “But the refugees still poured into the relief camps.”

A businessman from the Yadanar NGO in Rangoon, who visited cyclone victims in remote villages of Laputta Township on Saturday, said that only a few villagers remained and that they were not receiving sufficient food and shelter from the government or any non-governmental organization.

"It was a sad scene,” he said. “Victims have no food, fresh water or shelter. The situation is just the same as when the cyclone hit. Nothing has changed.”

He said that dead bodies were still floating in rivers and nobody could wash there. He said the villages—including Kyane Chaung, Ale Yekyaw, Maung Ngne, Hlaing Pone and Thit Chaung—are facing disease and starvation.
He added that the international organizations and private donors could not reach the villages between Laputta Township and Pyinsalu village because there was still a strong current at the mouth of the rivers.

An estimated 2.4 million people remain homeless and hungry after the cyclone hit Burma. Official estimates say the storm killed 78,000 people and left another 56,000 missing.

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