Desperate families cram monasteries after cyclone

By Hla Hla Htay, AFP

YANGON — Little Thazin Win lay on a bed made of a single strip of plastic placed on a concrete floor, while her mother knelt nearby preparing instant noodle soup.

The seven-year-old has not eaten anything since deadly Cyclone Nargis tore through Myanmar overnight Friday. Days later, she still appears in shock after an uprooted tree slammed into their home and destroyed almost everything they own.

Thazin Win, along with her father and three-year-old brother, was struck by debris when their house collapsed under the weight of the tree

“Now she doesn’t eat anything. All she asks for is water. I don’t know what happened to her. She sleeps but doesn’t speak much after she was hit when our house collapsed during the storm,” said her mother, 28-year-old Khin San Oo.

“I want her to see a doctor. But we have no money. We can barely find enough food for our family. We have nowhere to stay now, because my house was totally destroyed,” the mother of five told AFP.

“I don’t want to see her like this. But I don’t know how to help. I have to care for my other children too. I hope she eats this noodle soup today.”

Hers is among dozens of families crammed into a small Buddhist monastery in Hlaing Thayar, a cripplingly poor neighborhood on the western outskirts of Yangon.

“Hundreds of people came to my monastery for shelter on Saturday morning. My little monastery doesn’t have enough room for them to all lie down to sleep, but they at least have a place to sit,” an abbot at Aung Theindi monastery told AFP.

“I have given them all the food that we had stored. I have informed the authorities, but so far no one has come here to donate food. I won’t be able to help them either, once all the food in the monastery is finished,” the monk said.

About 400 people share the concrete floor of an open pavilion meant for religious ceremonies. The people here are among the most impoverished residents of one of the world’s poorest countries.

They say they have no means of rebuilding their homes that were destroyed by the storm.

“How can I ask them to go back to their homes? I sympathize with them. People rely on Buddhist monasteries whenever they have difficulties,” the abbot said.