James Pinglay, the teenage son of a Gospel for Asia missionary in Kerala, India, was at GFA’s Bible college in Rangoon, Burma (Yangon, Myanmar) when Cyclone Nargis hit the country Saturday. James was staying in the on-campus apartment of a Bible College staff member. He was able to catch one of the only flights out of the country after the cyclone and is now sharing the harrowing tale of the storm and its aftermath.
The cyclone struck in the middle of the night and surprised the people of Rangoon.
“First we heard a sound on the roof like someone was beating on it. We didn’t know then that it was a cyclone. We got up and went into the kitchen and to our utter shock, the kitchen roof was gone. The roof was made of aluminum and we saw it flying away in the wind. The ceiling had already begun to collapse,” he said. “Beams and sheet metal were falling, so everyone in the house knew they had to get away to escape injury. As one woman opened the door to escape, we saw trees being uprooted and falling down. We also saw the roof of the other two big buildings flying off. We all ran to safety to another building that was made of brick.”
Once they arrived safely in that building, the terror continued. They were on the ground floor of the building and listened helplessly, as the storm attacked the building.
“It was thundering and raining with a strong wind. We heard the sound of our roof flying off and hitting the ground,” James said.
As daylight ascended on the campus, James and Bible college staff surveyed the damage.
“The next morning, we found that the windows from our chapel had broken and water was all over the place in the office, chapel, classrooms and dormitories. The two-story staff quarters had no roof. The families on the top floor evacuated to the ground floor. Countless houses in the neighborhood were totally destroyed.”
In the aftermath of the storm, just finding basic supplies is proving difficult.
“The prices of essential commodities and food shot up high. The people were not able to even afford to buy food. There is no communication, no water supply and no electricity. Transportation is nearly impossible as fallen trees are all over the place and roads are blocked. People could hardly move from place to place,” he said.
The hospital and police station were destroyed in the storm, too.
“Banks and other government offices are also closed, too. All international flights to and from Rangoon are cancelled because communication and computers are affected.”
The immediate needs of the people were obvious everywhere James looked.
“When we went to the city we saw that there was no place left for the people to stay. They were literally on the streets. They had to sleep on the streets and cook on the streets. People here are suffering.”