Hitchin businessman caught up in Myanmar crisis sends a message back home asking for support

Laurie Clayden (r) with Burmese aid volunteers on Tuesday in Yangon the sign they are holding reads

Laurie Clayden (r) with Burmese aid volunteers on Tuesday in Yangon the sign they are holding reads: Donate for people who are suffering from the flooding. - Credit: Archant

A businessman who has experienced at first-hand terrible flooding in a South-East Asian country is trying to raise aid to ease the plight of hundreds of thousands of people displaced since the deluge hit.

Laurie Clayden, owner of Hitchin company Castello Luxury Baths, was in Myanmar – formerly known as Burma – at a business conference promoting trade between the country and the UK when major flooding struck.

Weeks of incessant rain fell on large parts of the northern and western regions of the country, trapping people in remote villages, causing huge strain on already beleaguered emergency and aid services.

The Myanmar government has this week appealed for international aid in the wake of the floods which have killed at least 46 people but affected more than 210,000.

Four areas in the country have been declared disaster zones with widespread flooding and landslides caused by heavy monsoon rain.

Many areas are still completely cut off by high waters or damaged roads.

Laurie, talking to the Comet this week from the capital Yangon, said: “I was here when the floods started.

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“There is devastation in the north and west of this country. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced, and desperately require aid and assistance.

“I was talking to one man who owned a factory here that I was going to do business with.

“Unfortunately it was destroyed, as half his factory was washed away down river.

“This left his 80 employees – many of whom also lost their homes – without their livelihoods, along with countless other local artisans suffering the same fate, which is being replicated on a huge scale throughout affected areas.”

“I am passionately concerned about helping people who have lost everything, whether it be in aid, assistance, or in raising awareness.

“I was also troubled by the fact the scale of this disaster was not initially covered in international news reporting.”

Laurie, whose business is based in Wilbury Way, added: “I’d love as many people in Hitchin, and elsewhere, to support the local charities here – and I’d urge people to visit the The Pandaw Charity site PandawCharity.com which supports education and healthcare in Burma, and donate anything you can.”

Laurie’s daughter Tandra Claydon, 18, a former pupil of Stevenage’s John Henry Newman School, said: “I am so proud of my dad.”