Mother gave birth in middle of Burma cyclone

As the waters rose around her house, Ohn Tay grabbed her eight-year-old son and ran to safety. Hours later, she gave birth to a baby girl.

Her husband is missing, but the young mother and her children are safe, crammed into a Buddhist monastery with a leaky roof, along with 150 other survivors, half of them children.

With homes flattened and loved ones missing, the people of Burma's coastal heartland have little to take comfort in. Ohn Tay counts herself among the lucky ones with has a baby to cradle amid so much death and destruction.

"My baby stays with me here. I try to keep her from getting wet, but it's hard at night when there is no room to move around and when it rains," she said, pointing at the roof, half of it torn away by the storm.

The limited area that is protected means that some of the refugees must sleep sitting up.

Kaw Hmu, a town about 60 miles south-west of Rangoon, was lucky, there are no confirmed deaths yet, though some residents are missing.

People know that in towns not far away, hundreds of people perished. Journalists reached the area yesterday after driving for three hours across rutted roads from the former capital.

Ohn Tay told how she was in the family's hut when the cyclone struck.

"The water rose higher and higher. My husband wasn't there, so I carried my son," she said, hugging the boy.

When the winds receded, she found her house completely flattened, like most of her neighbours' homes, and the family's rice field flooded.

"Some people are lucky. They lost their roofs but they still have the structure of the homes," said Din Aung Than, Ohn Tay's father. "But we don't have anything left to fix at all. And we don't have material to rebuild with."

In a corner of the monastery, children ate curry-flavoured soup with a few spoonfuls of rice as monks chatted with refugees nearby.

She We, looking tired and dirty, noted she had not seen anything like this storm in all her 99 years.

"But we are lucky. We heard that in the next town, hundreds of people died," she said.

Pointing to the clusters of children, their faces plastered with a white paste that serves as a home-made sunscreen, a man interjected: "We still have our babies."

She We's daughter, Daw Thay, sat surrounded by her three young children.

"My children were crying all night. There is not enough food. There will be no food this evening," the 42-year-old woman said.

The monks, who depend on people's donations, are going without, giving their meagre rations to the children and the elderly, "but there isn't enough," Daw Thay said.

Even though the town is relatively accessible by land from Rangoon, the country's biggest city, and military trucks can be seen traversing the area, not enough food is coming in.

The soldiers have been cutting away trees, repairing bridges and dragging away the carcasses of dead water buffalos and other animals, but have not distributed much food.

"The soldiers came once yesterday with food," said Daw Thay. They gave each person two cups of rice and said it had to last for the next seven days.

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