At Least 55 Dead From Floods in Western Myanmar

from Radio Free Asia
Published on 06 Aug 2015 View Original

At least 55 have died in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state, which has borne the brunt of torrential monsoon rains and subsequent floods, and remains in need of more relief aid as it prepares to rebuild, the region’s chief minister said Thursday.

Nationwide, 88 people have perished in the floods, according to the latest figures from the country’s Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement.

Most of those who perished in Rakhine died when their boats capsized, the state’s chief minister Maung Maung Ohn told RFA’s Myanmar Service, although waters have now receded.

Floods destroyed up to 5,000 houses and some schools and clinics are beyond repair, he said in an interview.

“We need a lot of everything,” he said. “Some people have nothing left or anything that can be salvaged. Some have lost their family members. The rice we have delivered so far will last only a week or so, and after that they won’t have any more because they cannot replant it in time.”

Three helicopters have been delivering relief supplies, including bags of rice and water, to all villages in Rakhine for the past four and a half days, he said, although they could not land in some remote areas and had to drop supplies from the air.

Planes are arriving daily in the state capital Sittwe, delivering supplies, he said, while many relief groups have been bringing in goods in boats, Maung Maung Ohn said.

“China has also sent in a special flood-relief team with its own boat and supplies,” he said

Prominent Myanmar businessmen Aung Ko Win, Max Zaw Zaw and Khin Mg Win also have provided relief aid to the area, he said.

“The situation is under control,” he said. “The survival issue is over. Now it’s time to begin rehabilitation.”

On Thursday, when President Thein Sein visited Sittwe and the townships of Minbya and Mrauk-U — two of the worst-hit places in the state — he encouraged people to start rebuilding and replanting.

“The president instructed us to begin rehabilitation efforts and provide farm tools to those who have nothing left,” Maung Maung Ohn said.

“The president has also given instructions for the state to provide them [the residents] with rice and rebuild their houses,” he said. “The state also will provide seeds for replanting because the rice will not be available for four or five months.”

The townships of Buthidaung, Maungdaw and Kyauktaw were also badly affected by the weather, which worsened as tropical Cyclone Komen crossed the Bay of Bengal late last week.

More than 330,000 people in 12 of Myanmar’s 14 administrative states and regions have been affected by the floods, forcing many to seek shelter in camps, monasteries and pagodas.

The disaster has destroyed nearly 11,000 homes and roughly 217,600 acres of farmland, the official newspaper Global New Light of Myanmar reported.

Help with damaged infrastructure

Also on Thursday, Hmway Khine, director of the International Organizations and Economic Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is coordinating international aid for those affected by the floods, said although donor countries are providing food and water, Myanmar will need help with rebuilding its damaged infrastructure.

The ministry is informing donor countries about what is needed via Myanmar’s embassies and consulates abroad, as well as the foreign embassies in the commercial capital Yangon, she told RFA.

“We also explained to the donor countries who want to help us that in the long run, lost transportation infrastructure is at the top of the list – repairing broken bridges, building roads, and supplying agricultural equipment and farm implements to replant crops,” she said. “We have the seeds here, but need other material assistance.”

Fellow Asian countries China, Japan, Vietnam and India have provided supplies such as rice, noodles and drinking water during in the past few days, she said.

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi of the National League for Democracy (NLD) posted a video on her Facebook page, calling on donor countries to coordinate with Myanmar organizations such as her party or her charitable foundation to ensure that aid reached those who needed it.

She also cautioned that the floods not be used to as a pretext to influence general elections scheduled for Nov. 8.

“We do not want this natural disaster to be a reason for upsetting the necessary political process without which our country will not be able to make long-term progress,” she said.

Aung San Suu Kyi recalled a referendum on the constitution held in 2008 just after the country suffered severe rains and flooding from Cyclone Nargis, which raised questions about how acceptable the voting results were.

“We do not want such questions to be raised this time with regard to our elections,” she said.

Aung San Suu Kyi, who is now touring flood-stricken areas in the country, said her Daw Khin Kyi Foundation, set up in honor of her mother, already had donated three lifeboats to Nyaungdon Township in the country’s southwest Irrawaddy division and would provide up to 300 more plus water, rice and life jackets to the area.

Reported by Thinn Thiri and Khin Khin Ei for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.