Flooding Kills at Least Five in Magway, Displaces Thousands in Rakhine

By Zarni Mann 15 June 2018

MANDALAY – As the beginning of the monsoon season brings heavy rain and winds across Myanmar, many parts of the country have experienced floods and landslides in recent weeks, leaving villagers displaced and homes destroyed. Five people have died in Magway Division and more than 12,000 displaced in Rakhine State.

In Rakhine, heavy rain since June 3 has left many homes in the area inundated, especially in Mrauk-U, Ann, Min Pya, Taung Gote, Kyauktaw, with more than 12,000 people displaced, according to the Department of Disaster Management’s official announcement on Thursday.

In an official statement, the department said it was cooperating with local authorities and civil society groups in Rakhine State to distribute safety kits and food.

Although the water level is decreasing, many locals are still stranded in makeshift shelters in monasteries and schools located on high ground, local lawmakers said.

“The water level has been falling since yesterday, but locals remain wary amid forecasts of heavy rain and rising water levels in the Laymyo River two days from now,” said U Hla Thein Aung, a local lawmaker from the Arakan National Party, or ANP, who lives in Minpyar Township, the worst-affected area in Rakhine State.

Since June 3, heavy rain has swollen the Laymyo River to dangerous levels, causing its banks to erode and heavy flooding in Rakhine State’s river basin area. High tides have worsened the flooding.

In Minpyar, floodwaters have reached as high as 10 feet in some villages.

According to local residents, at least 10 households from Shwetamar village in Minpyar have been forced to relocate due to erosion of the banks of the Laymyo River.

“Although the locals have received enough food and medicine, clean water is urgently needed, as the township’s wells and ponds are contaminated by floodwater. We also need access to remote villages, as transportation has been cut off due to landslides,” he added.

U Hla Thein Aung said landslides had occurred on mountains near Ann and Taung Gote, cutting off transportation of food to remote villages, whose residents’ safety is at risk.

In Magwe Division, local residents were concerned about rising water levels in the Mone and Man rivers amid heavy rain in recent days, especially in the area around Pwintphyu Township, which experienced severe flooding in 2015.

According to the local authorities, at least 100 residents were relocated due to flooding on Monday. They are currently housed at 10 camps in Pwintphyu Township, awaiting further weather forecasts.

“A few lowland areas in the Saytotetayar and Pwintphyu regions have been deluged, though the water level has dropped significantly since yesterday. However, locals are very concerned, as they are still traumatized due to severe flooding in 2015,” said U Myint Soe, a local official from the Magwe divisional office of the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement.

According to the ministry, roads and small bridges in Minbu, Myothit, Salin and Pwintphyu Districts were washed away due to heavy rain and flooding on Monday. In these areas, five people died and 63 houses were destroyed. In Thayat District alone, about 70 villages were flooded, creating an urgent need for food and water.

Alerts and warnings of more rain in the area are expected to continue for a few days, but locals said the rain had subsided for the time being, and that water levels in the rivers were also decreasing.

“However, [false] rumors are spreading through social media that dams in the Pwintphyu area dangerously full, and the government has not issued any alerts to locals. Actually, none of that is true,” explained U Tint San, a local parliamentarian from Pwintphyu, Magwe Division.

“We are constantly getting updated information from the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, which tells us that the dams are safe and the water levels in those dams are not at dangerous levels. We will visit the dam tomorrow to reassure the locals,” he added.

According to weather reports from the Department of Meteorology and Hydrology, showers are forecast across the country, with heavy rains expected in certain areas of Irrawaddy Division, Rakhine State, Chin State, Kayin State, Mon State, Yagon Division and Pegu Division in two days, due to strong monsoon winds in the Bay of Bengal.

The weather report also predicted that the water level in the Laymyo River in Rakhine State will drop below the dangerous level in two days.