Myanmar rescuers race to flood zones
Rescuers raced Monday to help tens of thousands stranded by rooftop-high floods in Myanmar, as the U.N. warned that swollen rivers threaten more areas and large swathes of Asia were hit by deadly monsoon rains.
Authorities in Myanmar said the death toll from flash floods and landslides caused by weeks of unrelenting rain rose to 46, with some 200,000 affected and villagers in remote areas forced to use canoes and makeshift rafts.
Hundreds have also perished in recent days in India, Nepal, Pakistan and Vietnam following floods and landslides triggered by a belt of heavy seasonal rains.
Access to many towns in remote northern and western Myanmar has been severed and relief workers fear it could be days before the true extent of the disaster emerges.
“Logistics are extremely difficult. Assessment teams are having a hard time reaching affected areas,” said Pierre Peron, spokesman for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
The U.N. was “very concerned” by the situation, he said, adding that while flooding had begun to recede in some places, rivers were bursting their banks and inundating new areas.
Relentless downpours were last week exacerbated by Cyclone Komen, which drove fierce winds and heavy rain across the western part of the country.
Residents near Kalay, a town in the impoverished northwestern Sagaing region that remains virtually encircled by deep water, described how their homes were swallowed by the deluge.
“There was no warning ... we thought it was normal (seasonal flooding),” Aye Myat Su, 30, told AFP from a monastery being used as a temporary shelter in Kalay.
“But within a few hours, the whole house was underwater. My husband had to get onto the roof as there was no way out.”
An AFP photographer in the area said floodwaters remained high on Monday, with many people making their way to safety in rafts cobbled together from old tires, salvaged wood and large plastic bottles.
A villager makes his way through flood waters in Min San village, located in Pwintbyu township, Minbu, in Myanmar on Monday, Aug. 3.