Widespread Flooding Across Myanmar Kills 11, leaves 119,000 homeless

floods-myanmar-07302018.jpg Residents use a makeshift raft to move through floodwaters in Hpa-an in southeastern Myanmar's Karen state, July 30, 2018.
Photo: RFA

Flooding triggered by annual monsoon rains across Myanmar has killed 11 people and made 119,000 homeless, with relief workers struggling to find boats to deliver aid to inundated towns and villages and warning about food shortfalls, aid workers and government officials said on Monday.

Seasonal rains that have also hit Myanmar’s Southeast Asian neighbors Laos, Cambodia and Thailand have hit eight states and divisions in the country, where authorities have set up relief camps for thousands of villagers who have escaped to higher ground.

“Five states and divisions -- Mon and Karen States; and Bago, Taninthayi, and Magway Divisions -- have more than 119,000 victims from 25,000 households according to the list we have,” an officer from the National Natural Disaster Management Department told RFA’s Myanmar Service.

A second official said Ayarwaddy Division, Saigaing Division, and the capital Naypyidaw were also flooded.

In Bago division, more than 70,000 people have taken shelter at 150 temporary relief camps, while 25,000 have found haven at 67 relief camps in Karen State, In Mon State, 50 camps are housing 15,000 evacuees, and 6000 people are being are being accommodated at 11 camps in Taninthayi Division, authorities said.

The national government has provided food for victims at camps, while regional governments and lawmakers have formed groups and help victims who remain in villages.

“There are more than 20 villages flooded in Hpa-An township in Karen State. They are staying at higher elevations in groups, but they can’t go to relief camps as they don’t have motorboats to cross the strong current of the Thanlwin (Salween) River,” said Saw Kyaw San, a relief worker from Hpa-An.

“The water is about four feet high in the town, so we need boats to deliver food for flood victims. We are worried for them as the flood has been going on for about a week,” added Aung Moe, a relief worker from the Karen State Youth Organization.

Officials in Bago Division faced similar troubles.

“We need a lot of help for victims. We have food enough for three or four days, but it seems the floods will last a long time,” Win Myint, a member of the Bago parliament from Shwe Kyin township, told RFA.

Zin Ko Oo, the chief of Palon Tontone in Taninthayi Division, said incessant rain caused a landslide on Monday that buried houses, killing five villagers and leaving another one in critical condition.

“Landslides started at around 8 am and five houses were destroyed. No one was occupying four of the houses, but the fifth one had six people in it. All were buried under mud and they were sent to Kawthaung township hospital. Five of them died at the hospital and one is still in the critical condition,” he told RFA.

It was not immediately clear where the other six reported deaths occurred.

Union Minister Win Myat Aye told RFA in an interview that the central government had provided seven speedboats and 100 fiberglass motorboats to help rescue or deliver supplies to flooded areas across the country.

“There was 13.7 inches of rainfall within 10 hours in Mon State, an amount that we have never had in our history. A huge amount of floodwater gushed down from the mountains and washed away houses,” the minister said.

National government aid extended so far “is more than enough for the victims at relief camps, but we are still trying to support people who remain in their houses. Although it is not 100 percent successful, we can help them to some extent now,” the minister said.

Win Myat Aye added that Myanmar was in contact with the World Food Program and the ASEAN Centre for the Development of Agricultural Cooperatives (ACEDAC) about international help.

“We have already talked with several international organizations about accepting their assistance. We can still manage for the victims by ourselves now. We’ll just need to ask the international agencies for help when we need it,” he said.

Reported by Thi Min Zin and Kyaw Lwin Oo for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Paul Eckert.

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