first news from Yangon


Today I went to to the internet shop and having found it open, I am sending this letter.  It's now 7.30pm.  As there is no electricity at all, there is no TV to watch.  You know I hate electricity generators (she had previously decided not to have a generator despite increasingly frequent power cuts in recent years.)  What with having to start the machine, then its big noise, I had decided that if there's no electricity, better just to stay in the dark.  But now, we don't know how many days, how many months we will have to be in the dark!  I never once imagined having to meet this kind of happening.  There was talk of stormy weather a couple of days before my trip south (she went to the southern tip of Burma, by sea, in April).  But I had already bought the ticket, what to do?  And the captain said the weather is very good, I thought OK and went.  I returned on 18th April.

About 4am on the 24th, I went to Thanphyuzayat.  I got up at 3am, when it began to rain heavily.  I lost all desire to make the trip and even phoned to say I would not come along, but I was persuaded to go.  It did not rain on the trip, I got back on 28th.  29th and 30th, it rained heavily, only 1st May was sunny.  I attended a wedding.  I didn't listen to the radio or the news and just thought, it is stormy weather time, that's why it's raining so much.

May Day everything was closed, but next day Friday everything was open.  With the weekend coming up, I didn't feel like taking the child to school just this one day, so I said not to send her that day.  MaThuri also phoned to say it's stormy, don't send the child to school.  MaJulie also phoned, saying there's a storm coming, don't park your car under the tree.  As it was raining the entire day, I didn't go out at all.  I had thought to go to the bank and the internet shop and had written Wendy a letter to send.  That night, I was lucky to get Wendy's phone call.  I managed to call MaRita as well.  I went to bed about 10pm.

About midnight, there was such a wind that it woke me up.  The upstairs doors were banging, the window glass breaking.  Some of the doors had already been hard to close, due to damage by the weather.  It was incredibly noisy, with the sounds of glass breaking, doors banging, the wind. We all were awake and ran around trying to close the doors.  The noise of the blowing wind was frightening.

Having never encountered such a happening, all I knew was to utter prayers.  Looking to the front of the house, we saw the water pipe had fallen down to the ground.  Son, you know your father, he was worried someone would go off with the pipe and began to say he would go down and fetch it.  At first I prevented him.  But he kept on insisting, I knew he would not go back to sleep, and during a moment when the wind was a little down, he went out and brought the pipe into the garden.  The noise of the wind was so strong, it was frightful.  Saying my prayers, I don't know at what time I feel asleep.  When I woke up, it was 7am.  When I looked to the back of the house, our mango trees were gone.  When I looked to the front, the view was clear to Kandawgyi (it was all shaded with huge spreading trees, between her house and Kandawgyi Royal Lake; the lake was surrounded by trees, many of them old and enormous).  I could see all the way clear to the Shwedagon.  The trees were broken or uprooted, the houses were standing out.  Looking in the direction of the city, I could see all the buildings (the tree-lined streets of Yangon! gone overnight).  The kha-ye tree next to the house had been uprooted, and had pulled down the electricity pole in front of the house.  The electricity meters of the house had all been pulled out.  It was still raining hard.  The satellite dishes from the top had gone, we didn't know where.  The corrugated iron sheets that had been part of the billboard at the top of Kandawgyi were being collected in the pouring rain by some Indians.  The rain stopped only in the afternoon.

A lot of the older houses had their roofs taken off, corrugated iron sheets carried away, roof-tiles broken, water pouring in.  We were lucky, our little house was dry!  The rain had come on Nila's side, two sheets of her roof were gone, and a lot of water had come into her place.  The house behind lost all its roof.

All day Saturday we were inside.  The road was blocked by the fallen tree in front of the house, and the locals had to cut the tree, people asking for water to drink, etc.  Everywhere I could see in the city, it was the same.  It really is a destroyed city.  Houses damaged.  The roads blocked and closed by fallen trees.  On Sunday, I walked towards Okkala and Kaba Aye.  Along a section of the Kaba Aye Road, the electricity poles were all down.  When is the electricity going to come back?  Without it, the water can't be pumped up.  The overhead tank only holds three days of water.  I am worrying about the water.  On Monday, I saw MaThuri.  Yesterday, she bought a 5 horse power generator for 610,000 Kyats.  Only then I thought to buy one and asked her if she would get one for me.  You see, if we get water, her son will also.  Saying we could share the expenses, she went off to the city and didn't return.  Only yesterday, I found out from her that she had gone to the same shop where she had got her generator, and what had cost 610,000 yesterday, today costs 2,000,000.  At this time when the country is in ruins, people's greed is on the increase.  The plan to buy a generator has failed.