BURMA: Hardest hit Laputta Township yet to receive aid


Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-093-2008
ISSUES: Land rights, Poverty & adequate standard of living, Right to food, Right to health,

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) writes with deep concern over the continuing delay in provision of food aid, drinking water and needed medical attention to people in areas of Burma hit hardest by Cyclone Nargis, particularly in Laputta, in the Irrawaddy Delta. Several days after the tragedy, nothing has reached the survivors, and the loss of lives could go up dramatically as a result of disease and famine unless aid gets through now.

CASE DETAILS: (According to Yoma3 news, Thailand; Democratic Voice of Burma, DVB; and various other sources)

It is now being reported that in addition to Bogalay, Laputta Township in the Irrawaddy Delta is amongst the areas hit hardest by the cyclone on May 2-3. Dozens of villages were wiped out, and tens of thousands of villagers from towns with a total population of about 200,000 people are either dead or missing.

The government has pegged the total casualties of cyclone as of May 6 as reaching to 22,262 dead and 41,500 missing, but even the government figure continues to rise. Independent observers suggest it could top 100,000, most from the coastal and riverine areas of the Irrawaddy Delta.

According to the account of a doctor, Aye Kyu, who had come from Laputta to Rangoon, at the time the cyclone had struck, the strong winds coming from different directions and rains were followed by a rise in the seawater level. As it constantly went up, people started climbing onto the roofs of houses and buildings. However, the terrible loss of lives was in part a result of people drowning after the water submerged houses completely or when bigger ones collapsed.

Apart from drowning, some survivors have said that people also died from being bitten by snakes coming with the increasing water level.

As Laputta is in a low-lying region at the shore front, only four of the 26 villages submerged by the flooding in the township had emerged as of last reports. The other villages have been obliterated. For every ten villagers, only around three are reported to have survived.

One of the villagers who had come to town also said that dead bodies can be seen scattered along the roadside. This villager said many more could have died. “My mother, father, brothers and sisters are all dead. I can’t do anything. I’m left all alone,” he said by telephone.

The villagers had also gone to stay in the monasteries after running out of food. There has not been any food aid reaching them; however, some local social welfare groups have boiled rice soup as they are running low on supplies and unable to serve bowls of rice.

Yesterday night, May 7, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) was reportedly due to transport food aid to this area. However, it is not yet known to the AHRC to what extent people have so far been able to get assistance and whether or not the WFP encountered any difficulties in making its delivery.

The lives of remaining survivors have been threatened due to lack of food and safe drinking water. Wells and ponds have been polluted with water from areas where there are corpses and were also flooded with seawater.

In addition to the damage at Laputta, all surrounding areas have been greatly affected. According to the conservative official figures mentioned above, there are 1,835 dead and 2,187 missing on Mawlamyaing Island; 975 dead on Heingyi Island; 253 dead and 10 missing on Khetta Island; 789 dead, 172 missing in Dedaye Township; and about 10,000 dead in Bogalay Township.

In Rangoon Division, about 59 have been reported dead, over 500 missing. These include 19 dead, 4 missing in Rangoon; and 40 dead and about 500 missing in Kunchankone. On Thursday, bodies were reported to be floating in the Hlaing River next to the city of Rangoon, that are believed to have come from Kunchankone about 40 miles away. Presumably these figures do not include the prisoners that were allegedly shot dead at Insein Prison on May 2 at height of cyclone (for details please read: AHRC-UAG-006-2008).


Despite the massive devastation, the government has continued to insist that it will hold a referendum on the new draft constitution in most parts of the country on this Saturday, May 10, and also campaign on it instead of put all its efforts into rescuing survivors. For instance, industry minister U Aung Thaung continued campaigning for Yes votes in Taunghsin township of Mandalay as if nothing had happened in the lower part of the country.

The AHRC has already issued a statement calling for the Burmese government to postpone the referendum (not just to May 24 in some areas as announced) and take immediate action into opening up into ensuring that the food aid and water, medicines and medical attention, rescue teams, amongst other reach the needy. It and its sister organisation have also called on countries in Asia, including Thailand (AHRC-OLT-012-2008), India (ALRC-STM-008-2008) and the Philippines (AHRC-OLT- 013-2008) to take action.

Please send letters to the concerned government agencies calling for their immediate action to ensure that aid gets through to the people of Laputta Township and other affected areas. For the sake of the letter, please refer to Burma as Myanmar, Rangoon as Yangon, Irrawaddy as Ayeyarwaddy and Laputta as Labutta. Please also be informed that the AHRC is writing separate letters to numerous UN and international agencies encouraging their interventions in this worst-affected area. 

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Dear __________,

MYANMAR: CYCLONE NARGIS–Please ensure that hardest hit Laputta Township receives aid at once

I am writing to express my grave concern that the survivors of the 2-3 May 2008 Cyclone Nargis in Labutta Township, Ayeyarwaddy Division, have not yet received the aid that they require in order to survive.

In am aware that Labutta was devastated by the storm and rising seawater and fear that the number of over 22,000 people already officially described as dead could rise far higher because in this township among others the numbers have not yet been accounted for.

According to survivors there, the loss of lives and damage to the property was so severe that 22 out of 26 villages nearby the town no longer exist. The storm also demolished buildings, uprooted trees and drowned thousands of people who tried to escape its force.

I have learned that despite this terrible tragedy, four days on the survivors from this town and nearby areas have not been able to receive food, drinking water, shelter and medical attention. Those coming into the town expecting to get help are getting nothing and there are security concerns as people are becoming more desperate.

Meanwhile, dead bodies remain scattered all over the countryside, raising serious concern of the inevitable spread of diseases, particularly water borne ones.

I am aware that the government of Myanmar has no capacity to respond effectively to a tragedy of this scale, and that indeed any country in the world needs help from outside in drastic times like these. I call upon the government to accept all offers of assistance, make requests for more, and not obstruct or attempt to profit from its delivery. And I call upon all parties to see that the assistance gets through to the worst affected areas, especially Labutta, before it is too late. It is a race against time to save the remaining human lives from being plunged from one nightmare into another, and which this time at least can be avoided.

Yours sincerely,


1. Lt-Gen. Thein Sein
Prime Minister
c/o Ministry of Defence
Tel: + 95 1 372 681
Fax: + 95 1 652 624

2. Maj-Gen. Maung Oo
Minister for Home Affairs
Ministry of Home Affairs
Office No. 10
Tel: +95 67 412 079/ 549 393/ 549 663
Fax: +95 67 412 439

3. Brig-Gen. Khin Yi
Director General
Myanmar Police Force
Ministry of Home Affairs
Office No. 10
Tel: +95 67 412 079/ 549 393/ 549 663
Fax: +95 67 412 439

4. Maj-Gen. Maung Maung Swe
Minister for Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement
Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement
Office No. 23
Tel: +95 67- 404 020-22/ 404 337
Fax: +95 67- 404 335
Email: social-wel-myan@mptmail.net.mm or social.wel.myan@mptmail.net.mm

5. U Aung Bwa
Director-General, ASEAN-Myanmar
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Tel: +951 229 214; 221 191
Fax: +951 222 950; 221 719
E-mail: dgaseanmofa@myanmar.com.mm

6. Mr. Patrick Vial
Head of Delegation
No. 2 (C) – 5 Dr. Ba Han Lane
Kaba Aye Pagoda Road, 8th Mile
Mayangone Township
Tel.: +951 662 613 / 664 524
Fax: +951 650 117
E-mail: yangon.yan@icrc.org

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrchk.org)

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID : AHRC-UAC-093-2008
Countries : Burma (Myanmar),
Issues : Land rights, Poverty & adequate standard of living, Right to food, Right to health,