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The River of Death
As Burma’s junta spurns the world’s offers of aid, Andrew Buncombe finds a landscape flooded with corpses – and a people begging for help
For the people living alongside the Payapon river – a branch of the mighty Irrawaddy – the slow-moving waters have always been a sustainer of life. The river has provided irrigation for their crops, as well as clean, sweet water for washing and bathing, and the fish from which so many of them make their livelihoods.
Now the same river is delivering the dead. The corpses of hundreds of people swept away and killed by the surging tidal wave of Cyclone Nargis are now being washed back.
They lie on the river’s edge, snagged in the roots of the mangrove swamps, bloated and burnt by the sun. Many of the corpses have already been buried by family or friends but there are plenty more that lie floating and abandoned, as anonymous in death as they must have been named and known in life.
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