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May 17, 2008 (DVB), The National League for Democracy's cyclone rescue committee visited cyclone-affected areas earlier this week and said victims were still lacking essential support while some had been forced to work.
Committee chairman U Ohn Kyaing, secretary Dr Win Naing, U Sein Hla Oo and a team went to Bogalay, Pyapon, Dadaye and Mawlamyaingkyun on Monday and Tuesday to donate money to help refugees.
Win Naing said refugees had been forcibly taken to Ma-Upin from Bogalay and made to work in a quarry for 1000 kyat a day. Those who were unable to work were given no support and returned to monasteries in Bogalay to seek shelter.
"It is very hard to find a good house in Bogalay. The whole town is in ruins and looks as though a bomb has hit it," Win Naing said.
Win Naing said the NLD committee was focusing its efforts in the townships with the highest death tolls, including the areas below Mawlamyaingkyun, where a two-storey monastery built last year was washed away.
"We couldn't even find so much as a broken brick and you can't see where it was built any more," he said.
The areas around Bogalay, Pyapon, Dadaye and Laputta have also been devastated, Win Naing said.
"The estimated death toll below Laputta is 80,000 to 100,000, over 50,000 in Bogalay, 5000 to 6000 in Pyapon, and around 5000 in Kunchankone," he said.
Win Naing said the lack of government assistance meant that local cyclone victims had to rely on monks for food and shelter.
"In Bogalay, they sent villagers back to their villages with three or four potatoes and one pyi of rice," he said.
"When the villagers saw that there was nothing in the villages, they took a boat back and went to stay in the monastery," he went on.
"When they came back to repatriate the villagers, the monks said they would follow them and only allow them to stay there when they had homes to live in and food to eat. Only then did the authorities give up their efforts."
According to the monks, around 10,000 storm victims are taking refuge in monasteries.
Reporting by Aye Aye Mon