Flood-hit Myanmar desperate as death toll climbs
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.
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.