Emergency Response Teams Deployed on Burma’s ‘Death Highway’

By May Sitt Paing 29 July 2014

RANGOON — The Burmese government and private tow companies have teamed up to provide emergency services along the Rangoon-Naypyidaw-Mandalay highway, a 386-mile stretch of road macabrely dubbed the “death highway” for the frequent fatalities that have plagued it.

The program aims to provide help within five minutes for emergency cases such as automotive accidents or mechanical breakdowns on the expressway, according to Kyi Zaw Myint, a chief highway engineer with the Public Works Department of the Ministry of Construction, at a press conference on Monday. Those who need help can call “1880” and assistance will be dispatched to the scene within five minutes, he said.

The program was launched on Monday and will be jointly carried out by government safety personnel and two private companies, Blue Ocean Operation Management Co. and the Forever Group.

“Those who need help only have to call 1880 one time,” said Tin Ko Ko Win, director of Blue Ocean Operation Management.

“Then, 1880 will connect to relevant persons like the police or an ambulance. After the relevant persons are contacted, 1880 will dial the caller back and tell him not to worry and that help is on the way.”

The 1880 emergency services are expected to be called upon most heavily along the portion of the highway that passes through Pegu Division, which has proven most prone to traffic accidents. Five call centers have been set up, with five more planned.

According to the Public Works Department’s expressway construction group, road accidents happen most frequently between 2 am and 5 am and 2 pm and 5 pm on the highway, which is trafficked by more than 10,000 vehicles daily.

From its 2009 opening through June of this year, the highway has seen more than 370 people killed and more than 1,000 wounded in automotive accidents.