Myanmar

600 still missing off Burma coast

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By SHWE AUNG

Published: 4 April 2011

A woman wipes her forehead after checking a list in Hpyarpon of survivors of the Gulf of Martaban storm (DVB)

Around 600 fisherman remain missing in the Gulf of Martaban after a heavy storm on 16 March battered thousands of rickety rafts anchored off the Irrawaddy coastline to collected shrimp.

A rescue effort led by the Burmese navy over the past three weeks has brought some 12,000 people safely to shore but hundreds are now feared dead, according to the chairman of a fishing association in Irrawaddy division's Hpyarpon, where most of the victims hailed from.

Than Chaung told DVB that statistics were still being collected and would be released in a week's time. "We are unable to get accurate figures right now as some of the survivors went back to their families and didn't inform their employers, and we are using their [employers] statistics to make the list."

As well as wreaking havoc at sea, the storm destroyed buildings in the delta town of Bogale, 95 percent of which was wiped out by cyclone Nargis in May 2008. Than Chaung estimated the damage to be in the region of six billion kyat ($US6.8 million).

"The weather is good now but we are unable to go to sea as we lost all the equipment," he said, adding that under Burmese law, the shrimping season finished on 31 March and was prohibited until next season.

Thousands of victims were rescued off the Koko Islands and the town of Kawthaung in Tenasserim division, some 450 miles south of Hpyarpon. Since the government's announcement in state media on 22 March that 3,700 had been saved, no mention has been made of the situation.