Flood-hit Myan­mar des­per­ate as death toll climbs

The China Post - - LIFE GUIDE POST - BY KELLY MACNA­MARA

Tens of thou­sands of peo­ple hud­dled Wed­nes­day in monas­ter­ies and other makeshift evac­u­a­tion cen­ters in re­mote ar­eas of Myan­mar cut off by deadly floods, as res­cuers strug­gled to de­liver des­per­ately needed aid.

Heavy sea­sonal down­pours have caused dev­as­ta­tion across large parts of South and South­east Asia in re­cent weeks, claim­ing hun­dreds of lives and dis­plac­ing mil­lions.

In Myan­mar, in­ter­na­tional aid ef­forts ac­cel­er­ated on Wed­nes­day to meet the widen­ing cri­sis fol­low­ing an ap­peal from the gov­ern­ment for help.

Tens of thou­sands of peo­ple re­main stranded in Myan­mar’s rugged and moun­tain­ous western bor­der re­gions af­ter re­lent­less rains caused flash floods and trig­gered land­slides swept away homes, roads and bridges.

The of­fi­cial death toll rose to 69 with more than 260,000 af­fected, Phyu Lei Lei Tun of the min­istry of so­cial wel­fare told AFP Wed­nes­day.

The floods sev­ered com­mu­ni­ca­tions across large ar­eas of the coun­try, which is roughly the size of France.

But in­for­ma­tion is start­ing to fil­ter back from re­mote re­gions where peo­ple are seek­ing food and shel­ter in monas­ter­ies, schools and mosques.

The hill­top Chin state cap­i­tal of Hakha, home to about 40,000 peo­ple, is still only ac­ces­si­ble by he­li­copter a week af­ter a se­ries of land­slides saw walls of sat­u­rated earth col­lapse onto homes and roads.

In cy­clone-bat­tered Rakhine state, where at least 41 peo­ple have died, whole com­mu­ni­ties re­main cut off even af­ter floods re­treated, with wa­ter­ways clogged with de­bris and roads wa­ter­logged.

Trou­ble Ahead

At­ten­tion

is now turn­ing to the coun­try’s low- ly­ing Ir­rawaddy delta re­gion as deluges from the north drain to the sea through the coun­try’s rivers, with author­i­ties re­lo­cat­ing res­i­dents from down­stream ar­eas.

State media sounded the alarm for res­i­dents near the Ir­rawaddy river, which was ex­pected to ex­ceed dan­ger lev­els in parts of Mag­way re­gion Wed­nes­day.

“El­derly peo­ple, women and chil­dren have be­gun evac­u­at­ing from vul­ner­a­ble ar­eas,” ac­cord­ing to a re­port in the state-run Global New Light of Myan­mar news­pa­per.

Myan­mar this week made a rare ap­peal for over­seas help, in con­trast to Cy­clone Nar­gis in 2008 that left 140,000 dead or miss­ing and saw the gen­er­als run­ning the coun­try then refuse out­side help for weeks.

This time China, Ja­pan, Aus­tralia and Nor­way have al­ready pledged do­na­tions, as U.N. agen­cies stepped up their re­sponse to flood­ing they have de­scribed as a “ma­jor nat­u­ral dis­as­ter.”

Myan­mar mil­i­tary he­li­copters and com­mer­cial air­lines have helped to de­liver aid pro­vided by the U.N.’s World Food Pro­gramme (WFP) in re­cent days.

WFP has said some 150,000 peo­ple are in need of im­me­di­ate food as­sis­tance, es­ti­mat­ing it needs an ad­di­tional US$2.5 mil­lion a month.

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