The horror of the Burmese cyclone was brought home today by a harrowing account of the disaster seen through the eyes of a teenager.
Orphaned and left homeless, Nyo Mynt described how his entire family were washed away in floods that turned his village into a cemetery.
The 16-year-old talks of seeing countless bodies floating in the river and the prevailing stench of death that has poisoned the air.
His personal tragedy was relayed to a aid worker from the charity World Vision at a displacement camp in Myaung Mya.
Nyo Mynt’s story begins on Friday May 2 as the devastating cyclone was about to hit his village near Laputta in the Irrawaddy Delta region.
The eldest of six brother and sisters, the boy recalled: “I heard there was going to be a storm. The signs were there – dark clouds and some rain.”
“We were preparing our meals when the wind blew down our little house. The water quickly flooded the surroundings.
The family decided to move to a church on higher ground in a bid to escape the torrent.
As they struggled to make it to the relative safety of the church, the family members tied themselves together with a home-made coconut rope. But it failed to withstand the force of the waters.
“At one point the rope broke, only my mother and I were joined together. The others were washed away by the tide,” Nyo said.
“I grabbed my mother with one hand with all my strength. We hit a tree that was floating adrift.
“My hand weakened because of the force then I lost my mum there.
“I was terrified and clung on to that tree the whole night. The tide submerged me many times.”
The following morning with the waters now receding, Nyo woke up alone and unable to walk.
“Pain covered my whole body,” he said.
The strength of the current had stripped the young Burmese man. Naked, he rode a buffalo towards the village he had fled the night before.
“I found nothing where my house used to be,” Nyo said.
Out of a population of more than 1,000, only around a third of the village had survived.
Too weak to leave, he ate a little rice cooked in salty water with those lucky enough to survive before setting off on the Sunday to find food and shelter.
His diary reveals the horrific scenes that met survivors in the immediate aftermath of the cyclone.
“We found countless numbers of corpses floating in the rivers and also on the roads.
“The bad smell was everywhere in the air,” he said.
Eventually, after two days’ walking, Nyo arrived at the township of Laputta.
“We had nothing to eat. I went out on the streets, jostling to get boiled rice. Only stronger people got that scarce food.”
He added: “That place was a different hell from my village. We had to stay there two days.”
Nyo eventually made his way to the refugee camp at Myaung Mya on Wednesday last week, where he received his first proper meal for nearly a week.
Despite surviving the disaster, Nyo’s future remains uncertain.
He said: “I don’t want to go back to my village – it is now like a cemetery for me.”
World Vision said Nyo Mynt is typical of tens of thousands of children who lost their parents or other loved ones in Cyclone Nargis and are now living in desperate conditions.