52 Dead in Mon State Landslide; Southern Myanmar Still Flooding

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PAUNG TOWNSHIP, Southern Myanmar—The death toll from a landslide in southern Myanmar on Friday has risen to 52, according to local officials.

Rescue teams are still searching for missing persons at the base of a mountain in Mottama, in Mon State’s Paung Township—where heavy monsoon rains continue to wreak havoc—the township’s administrative department told The Irrawaddy on Sunday.

The area was hit by a large landslide just after 8 a.m. Friday.

U Zaw Moe Aung, a Paung Township general administrative officer, said 11 bodies were retrieved from the site of the landslide Sunday morning, bringing the total number of dead to 52.

The landslide buried 25 homes and five vehicles.

Officials said the landslide was preceded by two days of persistent, heavy rain.

Authorities estimate more than 100 people were living in the area when disaster struck. There are believed to be more than 40 people still missing, including not just residents but travelers and passers-by as well, U Zaw Moe Aung said.

U Thet Naing Oo, a 40-year-old resident of Thae Phyu Kone Village in Mottama, said the bodies of five of his relatives were found on Saturday and that two of his teenage daughters are still missing.

“[It has been three days], so I don’t expect they’re alive, but I still want to see their bodies,” he said. “I was not home when the landslide came. It happened within seconds. People had no time to escape. We lost everything.”

Landslides in two other areas destroyed two homes but left no casualties, U Zaw Moe Aung said.

The region was similarly inundated with monsoon rains last year as well.

Ye Township

Emergency flood responders in Mon State’s Ye Township faced further difficulties on Sunday morning when flooding brought down phone lines, Min Aung Htoo, the leader of a civil society organization there, told The Irrawaddy on Sunday.

He said water levels in Ye Township, where he is currently assisting flood victims, are down about a yard (3 feet) from previous levels, allowing residents to actually see the previously occluded road when walking into town.

Still, he said, ongoing flooding has impeded rescue efforts in the township, where 7,000 people have taken refuge in four camps set up by township officials.

“Most people stayed home, not expecting water levels to rise so high, but once water began entering their homes they began calling rescue groups,” said Min Aung Htoo. “With so many asking for help now, the recuse organizations’ resources are stretched thin.”

“Recuse organizations in Ye tried the best they could, but they do not have enough boats to be effective,” he said.

No deaths have been reported in Ye Township.

Another large flood was reported in the Mon village of Han-Gan, also in Ye Township, where Min Aung Htoo said his team is trying to get to, but the floods have blocked access to vehicles and even small boats, he said.

“We are still searching for a way to get there,” he said. “We need a bigger boat.”

Elsewhere in Mon State

Tens of thousands have been displaced by monsoon rains and resultant flooding since Monday in Bilin and nearby townships in Mon State and across the south of Myanmar.

Between late June and Aug. 10, flooding in 11 of Myanmar’s 14 states and regions has affected 152,031 people, causing 145,859 of them to evacuate their homes and seek temporary shelter at one of 346 relief camps, according to a statement released by the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement on Sunday.

Second Vice President Henry Van Thio and Minister of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement U Win Myat Aye visited the landslide-hit area Saturday before continuing on to Ye Township on Sunday.

The ministry said it has spent 293.5 million kyats (US$194,338) on food and basic items for evacuees.

As of Sunday, 70,917 people from 15,920 households in eight states and regions—including Karen and Mon states and Bago, Irrawaddy, Tannitharyi, Sagain, Mandalay and Magwe regions—have taken shelter at flood relief camps, with Mon State and Bago Region the most severely affected.