A zinc roof lies atop a pile of bricks – the remains of a collapsed building. Various types of slippers are scattered in the area and, judging by the size, most belong to children. Dry blood has stained the concrete floor and mixed with the red earth.
The Baptist church in Kyakuni, a mostly Lahu village in Tarlay sub-township, toppled when a strong 6.8-magnitude earthquake hit about 8:30pm on March 24, killing 20 people and injuring 57.
“There are many teenage children among the dead. The earthquake hit when they were praying; about 200 people were in the church at the time,” U Kyar Khu, the head of Kyakuni village, said last week.
“Because it is difficult to reach the road, the injured people were sent to the hospital only the next morning. Although they were in pain they were mourning the dead throughout the night.”
Kyakuni village can only be reached from Tarlay by motorbike in good weather. The trip takes about one hour.
U Lar Wi, a 44-year-old farmer, said his wife was lucky to survive the tragedy.
“After the earthquake everybody in the village ran to the church to find their family members. When I saw my wife was safe at the church, I can’t say how glad I was to see her. She said she felt someone push her outside the building and escaped before it collapsed,” U Lar Wi said.
Sitting beside a fire with a tired look on his face, U Ya Par said in the native language that he lost two family members in the earthquake.
“He said his wife and a son passed away in the accident but the other seven people in his family are safe. He feels sad for the two [who have died],” U Lar Wi said, translating U Ya Par’s words.
Ko Dar Yal Hla, another Kyakuni resident, said that his sister also injured when the church collapsed.
“Two of our family member were injured when the church collapsed while they were worshipping. My sister was seriously injured … my other family members who stayed in our wooden house were safe although the earthquake pushed the house to one side so it nearly touched the ground. I was in the house at that time and the earthquake shook the whole building violently,” he said, adding that two members of his neighbour’s family died in the church.
Since the accident many residents have left Kyakuni for areas such as Tachileik because they are afraid there will be another earthquake, U Kyar Khu said.
“We have only received a little assistance up until now,” he said on March 28. “Some food and water but that’s all.”