48 Trapped for a Week in Flooded Kale School

By Nobel Zaw & Zarni Mann 3 August 2015

RANGOON/MANDALAY — About 48 people have been stranded on the grounds of a university for nearly a week in Sagaing Division’s flood-ravaged Kale Township, students told The Irrawaddy, surrounded by a sea of rainwater and cut off from nearby towns.

“The students, teachers and staff who lived in hostels at the [Kale Computer] University are blocked in at the compound,” said Lian Boy, vice president of the Chin Students’ Union and a friend of some of those trapped inside.

Lian Boy said about 20 students and 28 staff members, including the school’s headmaster, have been stuck there since Tuesday of last week.

Located about 14 miles from the town of Kale and housed deep in a valley, the grounds were almost entirely cut off from aid until water had subsided. Though some supplies have reached the group by air, the nearby Myitthar River has overflowed with heavy rains and completely submerged the only road entering the area.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy on condition of anonymity, a female student trapped inside assured us that they have plenty of food and water inside the grounds.

“Don’t worry about food; we have plenty of food for the next three weeks. All the people are fine,” she said by phone on Monday.

“Only one foot of the [three storey] main building is flooded,” she continued, “but beyond the compound the depth is, like, one man high.”

Water levels have already begun to subside, dropping a whole four inches since yesterday, she said.

Despite her confidence that supplies were plenty, friends on the outside have made appeals to rescue them or deliver aid. When President Thein Sein visited the devastated area on Friday, a group of about 30 peers briefed him on the trapped students and faculty and requested that they receive aid immediately, according to Lian Boy.

On Sunday, he said, police attempted to deliver food and basic commodities to the school by boat, but they were unable to reach the premises due to rapid river currents. A military helicopter successfully delivered some supplies on Monday morning, he said.

About half of the township is still under several feet of water, with most roads remaining blocked. Access to the area is currently limited to air travel.

About 10,000 people in the township have been evacuated to emergency shelters while some 2,000 others are confined to their villages in northern Kale, according to Thant Wai, a member of the local chapter of the National League for Democracy (NLD).

Other parts of the state have begun to see some relief as water levels receded in Monywa, though the situation remained dire in most areas east of the Chindwin River. Villages in Salingyi, Yinmabin and several other townships remained submerged as of Monday afternoon.

Villagers in Htanaung and Yonepin said the most pressing need was drinking water. Zaw Win Soe of Yonepin said water levels were still up to the roof in most homes, and that only one rescue crew, which was not affiliated with the government, had yet come to their aid.

Food and water are also in short supply for those stranded at the Mahasi Sasana Yeiktha monastery in Khin Zaung village. The abbot, Sayadaw Waryamina, told The Irrawaddy that about 100 people are currently taking refuge there, though no aid has yet arrived. The abbot warned that “food and water will run out soon, and we hope the rain will stop and the water levels will drop.”

Heavy rains have caused landslides and severe flooding throughout the country in recent weeks, particularly as Cyclone Komen narrowly missed Burma’s western coast on Thursday. The torrential rains are believed to have directly impacted some 200,000 people, while dozens have already lost their lives as a result of the crisis.