Six Years On, No Let Up in Nargis Survivors’ Struggle

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LAPUTTA, Irrawaddy Division — Although it happened six years ago, they still suffer the consequences.

About 400 families scattered across 13 villages in Laputta Township in Burma’s Irrawaddy Delta may be a microcosm of the devastation that hundreds of thousands of people have faced since Cyclone Nargis made landfall on May 2, 2008.

According to official figures, the storm claimed the lives of 138,000 people. For those who survived the cyclone—like these people, relocated by the government in the delta town of Luputta—their lives are scarcely back to normal.

“We no longer get a lot of fish, as we did before the cyclone,” fishermen from Kwin Gyi village told me.
They are among the families relocated near Laputta after the tidal surge generated by the cyclone wiped out their village by the sea.

Adding to their dismay, most of their houses are now in urgent need of repair—roofs are in ruin and not strong enough for the heavy monsoon that will come soon. In 2009, an NGO form Norway built 371 thatch-roof houses for 401 families here, but they are now weather beaten and most of the houses we visited are not more than shacks.

“We are eking out a living. How can I afford to fix the house?” said Kyu Kyu, another cyclone victim.

Other victims relocated to Mway Hauk village, also in Laputta Township, have been struggling too. They said they used to work as hired hands on farms and would get work on fishing boats.

“But now even those kinds of jobs are hard to find,” said one of the victims from the village, which is 10 miles away for Laputta town.

“It would be better for us if we were relocated in the vicinity of Laputta as it might be easier to find job.”

The Irrawaddy reporter Salai Thant Zin contributed to this report.