Flooding Displaces Thousands in Delta Region

By Lawi Weng & Thant Zin Nyein Chan 15 August 2012

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Massive flooding caused by ongoing heavy rain this week has forced thousands of people living in Irrawaddy Division and Karen State to flee their homes.

At least 2,500 people in Pathein (Bassein) District have been displaced by rising water and are taking refuge at a dozen temporary camps as well as five Buddhist monasteries.

Around 200 villages from seven quarters around Pathein City have been flooded with an additional 500 people affected in nearby Thar Paung Township, which has suffered badly due to its low-lying position.

There are 70 villages in Thar Paung Township with 66 currently underwater, local residents told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday.

“We have 70 houses in our village. I found that there are only three houses in my village where people can stay. The others are underwater,” said a resident of Kanyin Village in Thar Paung Township.

“We have run out of rice to feed the people who take refuge here. We may have to cook rice soup if the water level does not go down soon,” said a Buddhist monk also in Kanyin Village who is helping provide shelter to displaced people at his monastery.

“The river water from Thar Paung has reached the town center now. Many villages of the township are already underwater. It seems like a sea if we look at the riverside in Thar Paung,” said Thein Tun, the township chairman for the main opposition National League for Democracy party.

He estimated that around 7,000 acres of rice paddy farmland are currently underwater.

“There are around 400 people at this camp but only two toilets. It is not good for our health. We have to eat food from donations but we do not have enough,” said a displaced person sheltering at a temporary camp in Pathein City’s 14th Quarter.

Public schools, transportation and markets in Pathein District have faced disruption caused by the flooding, according to residents.

The price of commodities has also increased as supplies are scarce and transportation difficult, while the public market has seen less customers as people stay away because of the flooding.

The highway from Rangoon to Pathein is submerged so buses have not been able to operate a regular service.

“The level of water comes up every day as there is ongoing rain here,” said a shopkeeper in Pathein’s Fourth Quarter. “The problem is we are worried that our goods at the market are going to be damaged because of the water.”

She added that the township authorities have warned local people that the rain will continue for one more week.

“There are some buses that try to drive through the floodwater. But it is very dangerous. My elder brother is in Rangoon and cannot come back,” said the shopkeeper.

Similarly, around 6,000 people in Karen State have been displaced due to recent flooding which has caused transport problems between Myawaddy, Rangoon and Mon State with vehicles having to wait for waters to temporarily recede before proceeding.