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Thousands feared missing after storm

Thousands of fishermen are feared still missing at sea after heavy winds and rain battered fishing vessels in the Gulf of Martaban last week.

Some 800 people have been brought to safety over the last few days at the town of Kawthaung in Tenasserim division, to where personnel on hundreds of boats that were hit by extreme weather 600 miles north had been swept.

The state-run Myanmar Ahlin newspaper, which only reported the incident a week after it happened, said today that 3,374 people had so far been rescued while only 17 boats and shrimping barges were destroyed. Moreover, government authorities are refusing to comment on those still missing.

Fisherman from nine villages in Irrawaddy division’s Hpyarpon township had been aboard their boats close to the mouth of the Hpyarpon river when the storm struck on 16 March. Residents from Hpyarpon said they feared thousands more remained at sea.

A member of the Naungme village council in Hpyarpon township told DVB that the names of locals from there were on the missing persons list.

“We are just checking lists – some have arrived back but there are also some who went missing in the boats,” he said. “There are around 100 people [from Naungme] missing so far, and the list is not yet completed

He added that there were around 2400 fishermen in that village alone, and authorities were going from door to door checking with their families.

Of a group of 25 survivors who arrived in Kawthaung, four had been hospitalised.

“We were drifting in the sea for about three or four days,” said one man. “Now I’m in a hospital with a broken arm. I hadn’t eaten or drank [during that period] until I was found by our saviours.”

He said that he had seen “about three or four people get struck by a wave and drown”.

The director of Hpyarpon district’s fishing association said that survivors continued to arrive in groups of 200 or 300 as authorities monitor the death toll, no figures of which have yet been released.


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