Floods Affect 37,000 in Karen, Mon States

By Lawi Weng 1 August 2013

RANGOON — Floods in southern Burma’s Karen and Mon states have worsened in recent days and are now affecting more than 37,000 people, while at least one person was killed, officials said on Thursday. They warned that heavy rains would continue in coming days.

Aung Kyaw, assistant director of the relief department at the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, said 79 relief camps had been set up by Karen State authorities in 12 townships and sub-township for families displaced by the floods.

“We evacuated 33,490 people and have settled them at camps that we set up,” he said, adding that Minister of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Nyan Tun was visiting the stricken area to coordinate relief operations.

Days of torrential downpours caused the Salween River to burst its banks and flood large areas in both Karen and Mon states this weekend, and flooding continued to worsen in recent days.

Aung Kyaw said the town of Myawaddy, on the Burma-Thailand border, was among the worst-affected areas, adding that the Thai border town of Mae Sot had also been badly flooded.

Thein Zaw, Myawaddy Township administrator, said landslides had hit the road between Myawaddy and the Karen State capital Hpa-an at 10 places, adding that all road transport between the towns had been blocked for five days. The road winds through the Dawna Mountain Range.

“Road engineers from Naypyidaw arrived today to start clearing the road, but I don’t know how long it will take,” he told The Irrawaddy on Thursday. “If we continue to lack transportation, commodity prices in both towns will go up.”

In Mon State, Belin Township is badly affected and some 4,000 people have seen their homes inundated, according to local National League for Democracy member Kyaw Myo Min. He said a third of all villages in the district had been affected after water levels began to rise on Sunday night.

“We found one dead body while we were delivering food donations. About 2,000 people are now staying in camps. Totally, about 4,000 people were affected by flooding,” he said, adding that authorities were handing out small rice rations and dry clothing.

“There are many people who are stuck in their homes and we handed them our food donations,” he said, adding that on Thursday water levels started to recede in Belin Township.

Director of the Meteorology and Hydrology Department Chit Kyaw warned however, that heavy rains would resume in coming days in southern Burma and water levels could rise again.

“Depending on the exact amount of the rain, the [southern] area could experience floods again,” he said. “We are warning people who stay near the river that they should not sleep at their houses or they should move away and sleep other people houses to avoid the danger of quickly rising water.”

A warning in government newspaper The New Light of Myanmar said water levels in the Salween River would continue to rise until Friday afternoon, when they could reach to about 1.42 meter above danger levels. It also warned that the Ngawun River in The Irrawaddy Delta could rise to 88 cm above danger levels.

Overland and river transport between southern Burma and Thailand has been affected by the flooding, bringing cross-border trade to a halt. The Bangkok Post reported that border traders were losing approximately US $3.3 million per day due to the flooding.

Roads between Rangoon, the Mon State capital Moulmein and Dawei port in Tennaserim Division have been blocked in recent days as routes were flooded and a bridge collapsed.

Tala Mon Bus Company said transport between the cities had stopped for two days before resuming on Thursday afternoon.

One truck driver said he and many colleagues had been stranded at a flooded road some 80 kilometers from Dawei. “No one could travel on the roads. We had to sleep for two nights in our trucks after a bridge collapsed,” he said.