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Myanmar cyclone survivors stuck in makeshift homes

One month after Cyclone Nargis swept away his home and four children, Myint Oo returned to a makeshift tarpaulin shelter in his obliterated village in the Irrawaddy delta to try to rebuild his life.

world Updated: Nov 07, 2008 11:55 IST

One month after Cyclone Nargis swept away his home and four children, Myint Oo returned to a makeshift tarpaulin shelter in his obliterated village in the Irrawaddy delta to try to rebuild his life.

Now, six months after the storm hit Myanmar, killing nearly 140,000 people, he is still in myanmar and still stuck in the same sweat-box hut cobbled together with bamboo poles and bits of cyclone debris.

As with tens of thousands of others, there is little prospect of him being able to build a proper house in the next year.

"We had no money to buy anything," Myint Oo told Reuters as he sat with his wife in the corner of their bamboo hut, a tiny two-room shelter built by aid agencies for returning villagers.

"If not for the donors, we won't even have a place to sleep."

Another man in the village, 140 km (100 miles) southwest of Yangon, bemoans the bamboo matting on the floor of his hut, which has already worn thin, and the stifling heat created by the tarpaulin roof.

"It leaks when it rains and it becomes unbearably hot when it doesn't," the villager, who did not wish to be named for fear of recrimination from Myanmar's military rulers, added.

Normally, natural materials such as thatch from the palm trees and shrubs that used to grow across the delta provided cheap, rainproof, and relatively cool roofing.

But the May 2 cyclone destroyed all the trees as well as all the homes.

"The plants for thatch have only just started growing again so we will have to wait until next summer before we can start using them," one middle-aged woman in a village in Hlwa Zar, also deep in the delta, said.

"For now, we'll just have to live as is," she said, with a stoicism that typifies the toughness of the 2.4 million people thought to have been left destitute by the cyclone.

After one of the most violent storms ever to hit Asia, the task of rebuilding is massive, with the Myanmar government estimating in July that Nargis had completely destroyed 450,000 of 800,000 homes hit.

Aid agencies have gradually been given greater access to the delta, the Red Cross says it is planning to help with 10,000 new homes in January and the junta has made much in its official media of the "model villages" that have been built for survivors.

Despite this, one in three families are still living in makeshift accommodation, according to a report about to be released by UN-HABITAT Myanmar, the United Nations housing agency.

"The majority of them expect to have no funds to upgrade their houses in the next six months," UN-HABITAT acting director Bruno Dercon said.