Residents in some of the areas in Myanmar hit the hardest by floods and mudslides triggered by recent torrential monsoon rains are in dire need of emergency aid and food while they take refuge in Buddhist monasteries and relief camps, a local government official and monks said Tuesday.
Torrential rains, which began in June, have caused severe flooding in 11 of the country’s 14 states and divisions. President Thein Sein declared the four hardest-hit states and divisions — Chin, Rakhine, Sagaing and Magway — natural disaster zones on July 31.
Talong Kye-O, Secretary of the Relief Committee on Landslides in Hakha, capital of mountainous Chin state in western Myanmar, said although the rain had stopped there, nearly 2,000 houses had been destroyed by landslides, and 6,640 people were now living in 13 relief camps.
Residents from five wards have been evacuated, and two wards — Myohaung and Zayhaung — have been completely destroyed, he said.
“Some of the houses have cracked walls now, and some haven’t fallen down yet but are tilted, so people dare not live there anymore,” he told RFA’s Myanmar Service. “I don’t think they can return home.”
“Communications have been cut off from neighboring towns, and residents are in need of emergency relief supplies, including rice and cooking oil,” Talong Kye-O said. “State officials have provided some rice.”
Monk Wara from Yuwa monastery in Paletwa, a town on that borders Chin state and Rakhine state on the west coast, said landslides had demolished up to 50 houses, causing some injuries but no deaths.
When residents felt the ground moving, they ran for their lives and watched as their houses were swallowed up by the ground, he said.
Although local government officials, firemen and monks have started helping them salvage their belongings, the residents have not received any official relief assistance from the Myanmar central government, Wara said.
Up to 600 refugees, including roughly 50 children and 20 senior citizens, are staying at Withudayone Buddhist monastery in Paletwa, he said.
“The town’s residents are helping them with rice packets,” he said. “But rice prices are spiraling, and no more supplies are coming from Kyauktaw in Rakhine state anymore. “
Waters recede in Rakhine
Flood waters have started receding in Rakhine where about 140,000 displaced Muslim Rohingya live in state-sponsored camps.
A monk named Visetta from Myo Oogaung Monastery in the town of Mrauk-U said houses have reappeared, and only the roads remain submerged now that waters, which peaked at 15 feet, have receded.
Mrohaung, the old town of Mrauk-U, has had the highest rate of casualties so far at about 30, he said.
The village of Thitkyarseik is still under about five feet of water, preventing children from going outside and residents from cooking outdoors, he said.
Residents desperately need clean drinking water, he added.
About 10,000 people have taken refuge inside about 20 Buddhist monasteries that sit on high ground and hilltops, Visetta said.
“Most donors are sending relief rations to the better-known monasteries, so some of the poor are not eating meals and … [more] people are arriving daily,” he said, adding that his monastery is housing about 90 people but has received only three rice bags so far.
No residents in the town of Minbya lost their lives in the floods, he said, although they are now in need of drinking water.
State of emergency
In the meantime, officials in Ahpyauk, Taikkyi township of Yangon division have declared a state of emergency and told the town’s 30,000 residents to relocate to higher ground because the water level in the Irrawaddy River had surpassed the danger mark, said Myint Thein, chairman of the Taikkyi Township National Unity Party.
“Township authorities yesterday afternoon decided to issue an emergency order as the water has surpassed danger levels, and in some places water was seeping out from the sluice gates,” he said. “People have been urged to evacuate, and the township education department, after discussions between school administrators and town elders, decided to close more than 20 schools indefinitely.”
Nearly 1,400 schools across the state been closed temporarily because of floods, according to the state newspaper Global New Light of Myanmar.
Myanmar formally appealed on Tuesday for international assistance for the more than 217,000 people across the country affected by floods and mudslides.
The official death toll from heavy flooding continued to stand at 46, according to government figures on Tuesday. About 426,000 acres of farmland have been damaged, and 56,000 acres have been destroyed.
The Myanmar government has provided more than 1.5 billion-kyat (U.S. $1.29-million) worth of emergency aid to flood victims, including rice, building materials and monetary assistance for families of the 46 people who have died, the news report said.
The country issued the formal request for international aid even though the United Nations and relief agencies have been involved in recovery efforts since late last month, the U.N.’s Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a statement issued Monday.
“The U.N. agencies and INGOs are conducting assessments and scaling up the emergency response, including through the provision of food, emergency health services, water and sanitation assistance, shelter, mosquito nets and other relief items,” it said.
Myanmar’s military government came under fire in 2008 for refusing foreign aid for weeks after Cyclone Nargis struck the Irrawaddy Delta, killing almost 140,000 people.
Reported by Nayrein Kyaw, Zin Mar Win and Zarni Tun for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.