A Family Loses Their Home to the Sea

The cyclone turned the fishing village of Thae Khon into a sandbank. The house of Daw Anu Ma and her two sons were swept away.

By Admin 07 Jul 2023

A Family Loses Their Home to the Sea

Written by Mrat Swe

On May 14, 2023, waters from the Bay of Bengal brought deadly waves to residential areas along the shores of Arakan State, their encroachment fueled by Cyclone Mocha.

The cyclone turned the fishing village of Thae Khon into a sandbank. The house of Daw Anu Ma and her two sons were swept away.

Before the storm hit Arakan State, Daw Anu Ma, in her 50s, evacuated her house and took shelter at the village monastery. Accompanying her were her two sons — Ko Shwe Sein Maung, a man with physical disabilities in his 30s, and his brother Ko Hlaing Maung Tun, who is in his 20s.

“We fled along with fellow villagers. I asked them to also bring us to the place where they would take shelter during the storm,” said Daw Anu Ma.

The roof of the village monastery where Daw Anu Ma, her two sons and other villagers were taking shelter was blown off by the storm at around 10 a.m.

As the storm intensified, giant waves from the Bay of Bengal started to flood the village monastery, which is located at the high point of the village.

Ko Shwe Sein Maung said it was depressing and disheartening to see his fellow villagers fleeing the monastery.

“The corrugated roofing sheets of the monastery were blown away by the storm. Our family alone was left when other villagers fled. My friends told me to stay there, and that they would come back for us. They carried us on their backs, and we managed to escape,” said Ko Shwe Sein Maung.

Villagers including Daw Anu Ma and her two sons then fled to Yay Padae Village, which is a two-hour boat ride from Thae Khon.

The mother and her sons returned to their village the following day. But their house, which was their only real asset, was gone. Many houses, fishing trawlers and fishing nets were swept away by the storm tide.

Daw Anu Ma cares for her two disabled sons earning a living as an odd-job worker. Her home was destroyed by the cyclonic storm three days after it was built.

“We have no home to live in and are facing accommodation difficulties. We are now trying to build a home with the help of others,” she said.

Local residents of Thae Khon Village are currently unable to engage in fishing, which is their main source of income, and have to rely instead on donors for their livelihood.

“We rely on relief items donated by the junta and donors. Previously, we earned a living as vendors and odd-job workers. Sometimes, we have to beg for food from others,” Daw Anu Ma said.

Daw Anu Ma is a mother of five whose husband died before the children grew up, leaving her to raise them on her own. Three of her children are now married and have moved out.

Ko Shwe Sein Maung and Ko Hlaing Maung Tun, who are currently living with her, were not born with disabilities, but both became disabled as adults.

She said that sometimes when she is unable to work because her body is not healthy, she is worried about the food of her two sons. That’s why, in preparation, she raised chickens at home to sell, but her hopes have now gone with the storm.