Chin State Capital Faces Possible Food Shortages Due to Heavy Rains, Landslides

By Salai Thant Zin 1 August 2015

PATHEIN, Irrawaddy Division — Torrential rains in Hakha have triggered landslides and caused many houses to collapse, blocking roads and leading to concerns of possible food shortages in the Chin State capital in northwestern Burma.

“We can no longer buy rice, charcoal or drinking water in Hakha. All roads have been blocked by landslides. People are in great trouble. Children at the relief camps were fed with plain rice and pickled tea-leaf salad,” said Sung Zi Mang, vice president of the Chin National League for Democracy, which is now carrying out relief efforts in Hakha.

All roads leading to the state capital have been cut off since Wednesday after heavy rains caused landslides.

Situated at over 6,000 feet above sea level, many houses in Hakha are built on mountain slopes. Heavy rains caused the foundations of some buildings to weaken, with more than 100 houses collapsing since last week, according to rescue workers.

Some of the affected have sought shelter in the homes of relatives while more than 150 people from 33 households are taking refuge at the City Hall.

“So far we haven’t received any food supplies from the government. Without any help, we could face a total food shortage in the next three days and the situation will deteriorate. More than 2,000 people need aid. Hakha is facing a state of emergency,” Sung Zi Mang said on Friday.

Nearly all houses in Khwa Be, a village four miles from Hakha, had collapsed as of Thursday night, forcing villagers to stay in the forest, according to Aung Tun Lin, the state capital’s municipal chief.

“We have landslides everywhere. A township administrator and team are now on a mission to rescue the villagers in Khwa Be. All roads have been blocked. There’s no rice at shops,” he said.

Sung Zi Mang said landslides had also hindered rescue efforts.

“When we drove to rescue people from their collapsed houses, the roads were blocked. It made it very difficult for rescue work,” she said.

Landslides were also reported in Falam and Paletwa, where some buildings and bridges had collapsed due to heavy rains.

Kalay, a town in neighboring Sagaing Division, has also suffered from floods which have cut off transportation. Many people are now in relief camps.

The road connecting Falam and Kalay was blocked by a landslide, causing a shortage of rice, a staple food in Burma, according to local people.

In the past week, several regions in Burma have been inundated due to torrential rains.

Up to 110,000 people were severely affected by flooding throughout the country, with 21 deaths reported in July, according to an update released by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on July 30, citing government statistics.

According to figures released by the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation and published in state media on Thursday, more than 50,000 acres of farmland are under water in Irrawaddy Division. In Sagaing Division, more than 100,000 acres of farmland are reportedly inundated.

Prominent Burmese meteorologist Tun Lwin has urged the government to announce a state of emergency nationwide and facilitate urgent rescue work.