Burma Eyewitness: From The Eye Of The Storm
By Wah Eh Htoo
Myanmar Eyewitness Account - From The Eye Of The Storm
It was too late to turn around. Cyclone Nargis began lashing Yangon the same time our vehicle reached the outskirts of the city. The bus pulled over to the side of the road while passengers deliberated about whether or not we should move on.
Signs of destruction were already obvious—trees were ripped from the ground, lying in a tangle across Myanmar's main highway. A large telephone post was uprooted and tossed to the ground three yards away from our bus.
The bus driver and its passengers—including myself and fellow World Vision staff—felt it was best to press on before the storm worsened.
A day before the cyclone was due to hit World Vision staff traveled to help northern communities in the Irrawaddy Delta prepare.
The storm suddenly shifted direction and began heading south. Other World Vision staff who were deployed to the northern communities and I decided to travel back to Yangon, trying to make it there before the storm.
Before long we were caught up in the middle of the cyclone's landfall. We couldn't move forward or backward.
Trees, electric cables and telephone lines were chewed up and spit out all around us. Debris and branches carpeted the highway. Our bus quickly became the leader of a frozen convey of lorries and other passenger buses attempting to head into the city.
When the vehicles began moving again it took three hours to drive three miles.
Our bus continued to be battered by wind and rain.
Near a small village a truck sat in a tangled mess of cables and twisted tree branches.
The journey to Yangon was like entering a battlefield with the wounded and dying lying on ground. Flood water lined the neighbourhoods we passed by.
Yangon had no electricity. I wondered how news of the disaster was going to reach the outside world.
When we entered the town of Hmawbi, where World Vision runs programmes, I saw villagers beginning to make their way outside to assess the extent of damage looming around them. This area is a one hour drive from Yangon.
As we approached the city, we passed by Mingaladon Township, home to the Yangon International Airport. The conditions of the buildings were dismal. Trees and cable lines still blocked the roads. Roof tops had blown off sturdy buildings and traffic lights had been ripped off the ground.
Passengers on our bus were speechless. They didn't expect to see Yangon in such a disastrous condition.
The passenger who sat beside me said, "It's an apocalypse."
I also felt hopelessness and started worrying for my colleagues in Yangon. No one imagined things could get this bad.
World Vision offices damaged
When we reached the World Vision office, my colleagues greeted me with warmth but my heart felt as battered as the office looked.
Windows were shattered and broken glass was scattered everywhere. Flood water crept into the ground floor, destroying our bottom rooms. Our Internet was down and our generator was destroyed by a falling tree.
Since my arrival back in Yangon we've been walking and driving around the city to check on staff and learn the extent of the damage.
Yangon was hit very hard by Cyclone Nargis. People around here say they've never seen anything like it.
Humanitarian aid needed
I fear the situation in the rural areas is going to be much worse. People there are living in weak houses made of bamboo. The sooner our relief teams can reach the disaster affected, the greater chance they have of surviving this dreadful catastrophe.