In May 2008, an enormous and very powerful cyclone called Nargis swept across the delta. Winds of 200 km/hour and a huge tsunami killed a now estimated 200,000 people, destroyed most houses and schools, and caused great damage to farming and livestock.
Every village has moving, and often terrible, stories of the storm and its aftermath.
When the water came up, most people in our village managed to climb on two big rice haystacks, and survived the night. But in the morning we could see many bodies in the water from nearby villages
There were countless personal tragedies after Nargis, and many children were left orphaned. Ei Ei Soe, one of our scholars, lost both her parents and 6 out of 8 siblings.
Nargis was the stimulus for May’s emergency relief work after the disaster. From initial trips devoted to feeding and clothing the survivors, and patching their houses, she realised that this would become a long term commitment. Even just after the storm, when villagers had nothing to eat, they said their highest priority was to have their schools rebuilt.
Superficially, plants have regrown, many buildings repaired or at least patched, there are more buffaloes to be seen, and the rice yields from the paddy have somewhat improved. But everyone is even poorer than they were, and much is still not mended – most schools are still not rebuilt.