Labutta survivors still neglected by authorities

May 13, 2008 (DVB)‚ The situation in Labutta remains desperate, with relief efforts proceeding slowly and confined to the major waterways and local officials more focused on personal gain than on helping victims, locals said.

DVB journalists have been on the scene for several days speaking to cyclone victims. These are some of their findings.

The military government's newly-formed rescue teams, made up of local authorities and members of the State Peace and Development Council members, were given petrol to carry out relief efforts at places the authorities could come and inspect, such as Pyin Salu and along the main river routes.

Rescue efforts are not getting to the villages situated on tributaries of the main river.

Corpses are still floating down them rivers and some have been caught up among the palm trees.

The whole area is full of human and animal corpses, the village ponds reek of the corpses of human beings and animals, and there is no drinking water.

Township authorities have prohibited strangers from entering the area and have banned local people from burying their dead.

Due to the martial law verbally imposed by the township authorities, villagers are unable to search for the bodies of their loved ones or visit their relatives in other villages.

Fuel is very scarce. Although petrol was issued to township officials and SPDC members on the rescue team, they are only interested in salvaging flotsam, fishing pipes and other materials and making money from it.

If the local people need to go to other towns or villages to carry out important duties such as attending religious ceremonies for the dead, searching for the corpses of loved ones or going to the hospital, they have to hire a boat from the authorities, which costs 150,000 kyat. Then they will take people surreptitiously.

The authorities are also banning Burmese donors from giving help to the victims.

Reporting by DVB

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