Toll displaced by flooding nears 100,000
Residents in Sagaing, Magwe, Mandalay, Ayeyarwady and Bago regions, along with Kachin State, have been relocated, while officials warn the monsoon remains strong.
NEARLY 100,000 people across five regions and one state have been relocated due to flooding, according to data from the Department of Relief and Resettlement covering the period from the last week of July to yesterday.
Residents in Sagaing, Magwe, Mandalay, Ayeyarwady and Bago regions, along with Kachin State, have been impacted, with Sagaing, Magwe and Mandalay the worst-affected regions, according to the Department of Relief and Resettlement.
A total of 55,336 people from 12,891 households in Magwe Region have been moved to safer ground, while floodwaters in Mandalay Region led to the relocation of 25,040 people from 4974 households. In Sagaing Region, nine townships have been affected by high waters, prompting the evacuation of 13,040 people from 2706 households.
Nearly 5000 people were also evacuated across Ayeyarwady and Bago regions, and Kachin State.
While populations living in lower Myanmar have fared better, that could change as water levels on rivers upcountry remain above their warning levels and a low-pressure area persists over the Bay of Bengal, likely bringing more heavy rains in the coming days.
U Kyaw Lwin Oo, director of the Department of Meteorology and Hydrology, said the swelling rivers in upper Myanmar come as the country enters what could be the peak month of the monsoon season.
“The monsoon tends to be strong in August. Currently, the strength of the monsoon is very strong due to the LPA [low-pressure area]. Myanmar’s coastal areas and the lower part of Myanmar can expect isolated heavy rain,” he said, warning downstream residents to be prepared for potential flooding.
Driving most of the displacement are the swollen Chindwin and Ayeyarwady rivers. The latter’s water level at a measuring post in Mandalay was recorded on August 1 at its highest point since 2004. At 1325 centimetres (43.5 feet), the August 1 reading was well above the 1260cm mark designated as the river’s warning level.
In Mandalay Region’s Amarapura township, 12,496 people and 3351 houses were tallied as flood victims by the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement. Authorities on August 1 banned people from walking on the iconic teak U Bein Bridge as the waters of Taungthaman Lake rose above its boards at points. Meanwhile, the Department of Archaeology and National Museum announced yesterday that visits to the inundated Inwa old city, a popular tourist draw, were prohibited indefinitely.
U Tin Maung Win, an Amyotha Hluttaw MP representing the affected townships of Mawlaik and Paungbyin (NLD; Sagaing 2), compared the recently rising waters to widespread flooding across much of Myanmar at this time last year.
“The flow rate of the water is slower than last year’s flooding. With the current flooding, the water has increased gradually and also the falling rate of the water level is slow. Residents are having difficulties with transportation and livelihoods due to the floodwaters,” he said, adding that floodwaters had reached his home in Mawlaik township.
U Aung Thaung Shwe, deputy director of the Myanmar Red Cross Society, said this year’s flooding was not yet as bad as in 2015. He urged people to be on alert and heed any early warning advisories put out by the government.
The director of the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, U Than Htut Swe, told The Myanmar Times yesterday that the government was providing three days of basic rations to those displaced by flooding in Mandalay, but he called on civil society groups and charitable associations to lend their support through additional provisions.
Mandalay Region Chief Minister U Zaw Myint Maung sought to assure the region’s residents that his administration was handling the rising waters.
“Every day we are sent the amount of rainfall, the amount of water in the dams and the amount the water level is above the danger mark,” he said. “We also estimate which areas might be flooded … We have also arranged speedboats to rescue in cases of emergency. We arrange for healthcare [that might be needed] due to the consequences of flooding.”
The chief minister added, however, “We are a bit worried because the water level in the river is still increasing.”
– Translation by Khine Thazin Han