Flooding on Myanmar-Thai Border Threatens Imports of Oxygen Needed by COVID Patients

By The Irrawaddy 29 July 2021

Border trade between Myanmar and Thailand via Myawaddy in Karen Sate is likely to halt soon because of flooding on the Gyaing River, said merchants in the border town, which is an important entry point for imported medicines and oxygen cylinders urgently needed to address the COVID-19 outbreak in Myanmar.

Myawaddy has been flooded since July 23 due to heavy rains, but the No. 2 Myanmar-Thai Friendship Bridge linking the town and Thailand’s Mae Sot is still useable and goods can be transported. However, the Gyaing River on the Myanmar side has risen above its danger level, flooding roads leading to Yangon and other towns, said a merchant who imports oxygen cylinders from Thailand via Myawaddy.

“The river is swollen at the Gyaing Bridge, and is above its danger level. So, it is likely that trade will halt in the next two days,” the merchant told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday.

The Gyaing Bridge forms a part of the Myanmar-Thailand border trade route, linking Karen and Mon states. Last year, border trade halted for a week after the Gyaing River rose.

Hit by a massive citywide COVID-19 outbreak, Yangon is experiencing a shortage of oxygen, a crucial lifeline for victims of the deadly new coronavirus variants. The city is relying on oxygen cylinders imported from Thailand.

“For the time being, goods can be transported into Myanmar. Truck drivers may have some difficulties as some parts of the roads are flooded [on the Myanmar side]. The Gyaing River has not yet risen to last year’s level at the bridge, but if it continues to rise, the imports will halt,” a Myawaddy merchant said.

According to the junta-controlled Department of Meteorology and Hydrology, the Sittaung and Salween rivers have risen above their danger levels in Bago Region’s Madauk and Karen State’s Hpa-an. In Myawaddy, the Moei River has risen more than 10 feet above its danger level.

Dozens of townships in Karen, Mon and Rakhine states and Tanintharyi Region are flooded due to heavy rain.

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