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Basic needs missing in Giri’s wake amid cut power, phones

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Food and water shortages, power cuts and severed phone lines are affecting thousands of homes and businesses in Kyaukphyu Township, Arakan State in the wake of Cyclone Giri, which hit Burma’s west coast last week.

Giri-map“At least 71,000 people have lost their homes and an estimated 177,000 have been affected by the cyclone that hit late on Friday, leaving survivors in urgent need of food and water,” Reuters AlertNet humanitarian news service reported yesterday, citing aid agencies.

The storm made landfall near Kyaukphyu, bearing winds of 100-120 miles per hour (160-190 kilometres per hour), according to the Red Cross, and has killed at least 27 in the town.

A local politician said 11 had died in Pauktaw and 64 in Myebon townships.

Many roads, bridges, power lines and telecommunications equipment sustained major damage, and tens of thousands of homes have been partly or completely wrecked, the report said.

Ba Shin, a Rakhine National Development Party (RNDP) candidate for Kyaukphyu, told Mizzima: “Power cuts still affect homes in Kyaukphyu. I don’t know when we can use electricity again but I think repairs will take a long time. We have to use candles every night.”

“Landline phones are also not working, so we have to use mobiles phones. But the power cuts mean that when the batteries run down, we won’t be able to use mobiles either, Ba Shin said.

However, Kyaukphyu residents were no strangers to power shortfalls. Before the storm, the town electricity supply ran from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m, a source said.

The state-run newspaper, The Mirror, said that 40 office buildings in Kyaukphyu Township, two schools and the roofs of about 1,000 buildings were damaged.

Giri also damaged fishery trade centres and the many vessels of one of the town’s main livelihoods, its fishing fleet.

About 2,000 homeless were taking refuge at monasteries, meditation halls and schools in the town. Although authorities had provided rice for cyclone victims, the rice was wet, according to a Mizzima correspondent.

Moreover, victims in rural areas were being ignored by the authorities, a resident from Zinchaung village told Mizzima.

RNDP secretary Khaing Pyi Soe told Mizzima: “According to the information we compiled, 11 people died in Pauktaw, 64 people died in Myebon and 25 people died in Kyaukphyu due to the cyclone. Our cyclone relief rescue team has arrived in Kyaukphyu.”

Myebon Township was also severely hit and about 90 per cent of buildings were damaged, according to the residents.

A UN office in Rangoon reported that of the 177,000 residents in 71 villages affected, 10,000 were hit severely. It added that the number of victims might be more than had been reported.

“The cyclone cut off communications in the affected regions so we have to depend on sea routes to reach there, meaning we’ve encountered difficulties in compiling [accurate] information,” a UN spokesman told Mizzima. “Many paddy fields and businesses were damaged. It will take long time to return the towns to their previous states.”

The havoc wreaked by the cyclone has pushed the Burmese general elections scheduled for November 7 out of people’s minds in affected areas, they said.

“We are not interested in the election. We are too busy. My land is full of rubbish, the streets, too. It will take long time to clear them,” a resident of Myebon said.

The RNDP had sent an official letter yesterday to the junta’s electoral watchdog, the Union Election Commission, to postpone polls for a month in Kyaukphyu and Myebon, the party said.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 28 October 2010 19:02 )  

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