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Dead are thrown into rivers as the living wait for aid

  • Story Highlights
  • Southern town is decimated by cyclone, with few homes remaining
  • Victims' bodies are thrown into area's rivers as the living wait for help
  • Rice supplies likely to last for only five days after storm destroyed mills
  • Monasteries being used to shelter homeless, monks try to treat injured
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By Dan Rivers
CNN
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BOGALAY, Myanmar (CNN) -- Homeless children watched Tuesday as solemn men unceremoniously dropped dead bodies into the river of this southern Myanmar township.

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CNN's Dan Rivers was the first Western journalist to visit Bogalay and see the devastation.

The funeral-like procession to the river was one of the many disturbing images of the destruction left by Myanmar's deadly cyclone.

The cyclone's devastation could be seen everywhere in Bogalay. The estimated 240 km/hr (150mph) winds spared only four of the 369 homes in a village here.

The nationwide death toll was estimated by state run media and opposition sources at more than 22,000.

Almost half of the total death toll could have come from Bogalay, according to an estimate by China's state run news agency Xinhua. Many of the survivors have been left with nothing.

They sat in roofless homes, parasols their only protection from the rain that continued to fall. Video Watch Rivers report from Bogalay »

One family who sat in the remains of their home -- shreds of the roof and walls littered the floor -- said they only had enough food to last a couple of days. We could see their meager supply of eggs and rice.

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New supplies will be hard to come by after the storm destroyed the area's mills, leaving only about a five-day supply of usable rice, locals said. Water pumps were also ruined, and fuel is scarce.

Monasteries were being used as temporary shelters for hundreds of people left homeless. At one there were about 600 people sleeping where they could.

Many had lost someone they loved. Some sat with bleak, numb stares as small piles of food were guarded by young apprentice monks.

The monks said they have food for two days. After that, they say, they have no answer.

Another monastery was called an operating theater, but there were no medical supplies. One man sat with open wounds, blood running down his back.

Members of the military could be seen all over Bogalay on Tuesday, some trying to cut through fallen trees.

International aid groups are waiting for the Myanmar government's approval to enter the country. Photo iReporter documents the destruction. »

But the worry here in Bogalay, south of the former capital Yangon, was how relief workers would be able to cross the difficult tropical terrain to reach victims.

The journey to the town is very difficult -- crisscrossed by rivers and lush patches of trees. It is punctuated by few roads, many which are clogged by debris. Video Watch how the cyclone crippled Yangon »

International disaster experts have warned that a lack of water and food could lead to a health-related crisis; they want aid to get in as fast as possible.

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Also, there is concern that areas to the south of Bogalay could have suffered even more because they are low delta lands that were hit first.

Meanwhile, Bogalay's survivors wait and try to put the pieces of their lives back together.

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