ADRA is already responding. Help us.
May 16, 2008
As told by TEDDY DINH (Associate Country Director for ADRA Myanmar)
"Everything is lost. Everything," said Teddy Dinh, associate country director for ADRA Myanmar, in a telephone interview in which he recounted his near death experience in the Irrawady Delta when Cyclone Nargis came ashore.
What is left of the hospital in Piyansalu. ADRA is providing food to the survivors in this area.
When the cyclone hit, Teddy and his staff were busy constructing a jetty as part of a tsunami rehabilitation project in Amageley village in Pyinsalu Sub-Township, a distant patchwork of islands and rivers in the extreme south of the delta region. Although the storm grew near on Friday, May 2, Dinh and his staff continued their work despite hearing radio reports of 50-60 mph winds. Even as news of strengthening winds continued, they remained certain that the storm would pass south of their location, and that the impact of the cyclone would not amount to much.
Around 3 p.m., and with winds starting to blow stronger, it became apparent to them that the storm would in fact be serious, if not deadly.
"We have to run," his staff insisted.
Teddy grabbed a sleeping bag and a blanket, and together with his son and his staff began looking for a hiding place to ride out the storm. By now, it was obvious that they would not be able to escape the approaching storm. The boat they planned to use was gone. Trying to run was not possible either, as the winds were too strong, and they could not even open their eyes. They managed to run to a rice storage facility, packed with seven or eight feet of rice, where they took shelter with 150 other people.
Through the evening the water level around them continued to climb. When the water reached the building, it rose to three or four feet above the rice.
"It was like a tsunami," he said.
Outside, the winds had reached cyclonic speeds. He and others inside the warehouse held onto posts to avoid being blown away. They remained hiding from 5 p.m. until midnight, when the storm began to subside, and the water level started to recede. At that point, they decided to look for a new place to hide, and went to a Baptist church in the village where they could spend the rest of the night.
People in the Labutta camps using the cooking equipment distributed by ADRA to cook the rice that is also being distributed by ADRA
"It is normally a 10 minute trip," he said. "But this time it took hours, because of all of the debris on the road."
When they arrived at the church, they found nothing but devastation, as the building had been completely flattened by the cyclone, with the bodies of 25 people, mostly women and children, still inside. They walked on, finally finding shelter in a partially collapsed building, where they huddled together with other survivors, waiting for dawn to arrive.
When Saturday morning came, they returned to the church where they found the dead. They dug a mass grave and buried all the bodies in it.
Streets in Labutta are crowded with people who have lost everything ADRA prepares to distribute medical aid
Dinh, his son, and staff were very hungry and thirsty, since they had not eaten any food since Friday. They drank coconut water and ate the meat from the top of the coconut. Some of the other survivors ate the meat of the livestock carcasses lying in the streets.
By 6 p.m., Dinh had arrived on foot at another village. Here, he borrowed a boat and returned to Piensalu to look for the rest of his staff. When he arrived, there was complete devastation. Nearly everything was destroyed and many bodies were floating in the water. The staff, however, had only suffered minor cuts.
Despite the tragedy, Dinh remains undaunted.
"The staff really feels the need to help the people there," he said, "and every day they travel back to Piensalu helping to clean, distribute food, and transport people back to Labutta, and Myaungmya."
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