Page last updated at 10:16 GMT, Thursday, 8 May 2008 11:16 UK

Eyewitness: No help after cyclone

By Paul Danahar
BBC News, southern Burma

The wreckage of a home in southern Burma
Villagers have no food or fresh water and very little shelter

We've seen the terrible trail of destruction left behind by the cyclone.

You drive round a corner and you see a village which has literally been wiped off the map. People are scavenging around, trying to get bits of corrugated iron to rebuild their homes, trying to get some shelter.

For now they have no food and no shelter. Their water supplies have been contaminated.

A full six days after the cyclone slammed into this country, there is so much aid sitting on the borders; there are so many needy people. And the two are not getting together.

So the people who have survived are living with thousands of corpses, polluting their environment, polluting their water supply, and the risk of disease taking hold is getting worse and worse by the day.

What is uncommon is that it's taking so long to get a clear picture of the challenge ahead. Normally three or four days after a disaster such as this, the numbers of casualties lurch upwards. But by now we should at least have a clear idea of the scale of the problem.

We still do not know because there are hundreds of thousands of people locked off by the broken bridges and blocked roads, and by a government which simply cannot commit to allow in outside help and assessment.


Listen to BBC correspondents, Paul Danahar in Burma, and Jonathan Head in Thailand

It feels incredibly depressing and intrusive to walk into one of these villages. Your only reason to be there is that you feel you are telling the outside world what is going on.

What is bizarre in this circumstance is that normally you are welcomed as a journalist by the government that is trying to cope with a disaster. They want the world to know, because they want the world to give help.

Yet we are having to hide from the government here. We are having to send our material out while hiding in paddy fields. It's an absurd situation. So we go into a village but we can't stay long, because if the army does come round the corner we may be arrested and we may be sent out.

Normally when you cover a natural disaster the roads you are going down are choked with relief effort - with refugees going one way and with aid going the other. The roads we have been going down, straight into the Irrawaddy delta, are empty.

Some aid has arrived in the country. Some of it is being flown around by the few helicopters available.

Villagers waiting for aid in southern Burma
Waiting for help, but there is little news on the arrival of aid

But this is a massive problem over a huge area. The government simply doesn't have the resources to deal with it.

The people we have been talking to have no source of information. They have lost their electricity and their televisions and radios. And they are not getting information from the government because they are not seeing the army or the police.

One man said to me earlier in the week: "When we had demonstrations last year the army were everywhere; where are they now?"

Villagers we have talked to say we were the first people they had met from outside their own community. They don't know why help has not come.

One villager told me: "We don't know the reasons why - we have heard that foreign aid may be coming. We really want it, but we don't know when we are going to get it."

This was a man standing in the wreckage of his home.

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