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Khamis, 8 Mei 2008

Survivors tell of Burma cyclone horror

Some survivors arrived half-naked, others wore clothes they scavenged from the dead. Burma's rice-trading town of Labutta - the only spit of high ground in a vast watery landscape - has become a beacon of hope for tens of thousands who lived through the cyclone's fury, most losing homes and family members. The survivors made the journey in rickety wooden boats with makeshift sails fashioned out of blankets, dodging the bloated corpses of buffaloes and dead neighbours floating in the murky waters.
It was a journey from horror to misery for most, who described desperate hours clinging to trees and debris, followed by days of waiting for aid to arrive, in video shot for The Associated Press by a Burma journalist. The footage provided a first glimpse of Burma's worst-hit Irrawaddy delta, which has been cut off from the rest of the world since Cyclone Nargis struck on Saturday, unleashing a three-and-a-half-metre-high storm surges that flooded the low-lying area of rice paddies and bamboo homes.
"I was hanging from a six-metre tall coconut tree for a long time until the weather subsided. I don't know what happened to my wife and young children," said Phan Maung, 55, sobbing as he spoke. Many survivors were shaking and had trouble telling their tales. Some were angry, others hysterical. Only a few were willing to give their names, fearful of retribution by a government already embarrassed by its failure to bring prompt relief.
"I am the only survivor of a family of 11. The entire village was wiped out," said a man from the village of Yay Way. Nearby, a woman in her 50s stared ahead in shock as she spoke.
"The wind came first and the waves started to roll over us, so that we had to crawl over the thatch walls to get to the upper floor of the house. I saw people drowning and dead bodies floating," she said.
More than 60,000 people were killed or are missing in the densely-populated delta, which sits just above sea level, and as many as 100,000 are feared dead. Meteorologists say the storm, which gathered strength in the Bay of Bengal and whipped up 195kmh winds, took an unusual track heading eastward into the densely populated delta region where a quarter of the nation's population live. Jim Andrews, a senior meteorologist at AccuWeather, said that satellite photos taken after the storm showed flooding of similar magnitude to that of Hurricane Katrina in the southern United States in 2005

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