The Irrawaddy

Floods in Philippines, Burma Displace Tens of Thousands

Workers try to clear a stretch of the road between Myawaddy and Hpa-an after it was hit by a landslide following days of heavy rain. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

BANGKOK — Severe flooding caused by days of heavy monsoon rains has displaced some 120,000 people in the Philippines and Burma, and the rains may not be over yet.

The government-run Philippines News Agency said up to 100,000 people have been forced to leave their homes following incessant rains in Maguindanao and North Cotabato in the southern Philippines island of Mindanao.

In southeastern Burma, more than 23,000 people in five states and regions remain displaced by flash floods, though the waters are now starting to recede and most shelters are expected to close in the next few days, according to the latest report by the United Nations.

“The affected areas see flooding annually, but this year it was worse because the rains are heavier due to the depression and storm in Bay of Bengal and the strong monsoon,” said Maung Maung Khin, head of the Disaster Management Division at Myanmar Red Cross Society.

Both countries regularly suffer from seasonal floods but the relentless downpour in the past week has submerged many areas and there have been reports of landslides, flash floods and riverbanks collapsing.

More than two-thirds of the villages in the Philippines’ Cotabato City have been submerged by floodwaters for a week and forced tens of thousands of residents to move to safer ground, the PNA said, quoting Cotabato City Administrator Cynthia Guiani Sayadi.

Cotabato’s clogged drainage canals and location between the heavily stilted Rio Grande de Mindanao and Tamontaka rivers contributed to the flooding, it added.

Monsoon Paddy Losses

More rain is forecast for southern Burma but rain is also expected in central Burma, which has been unusually dry, the Red Cross’s Maung Maung Khin told Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Burma.

“In Upper Myanmar, heavy rain during the monsoon usually leads to flooding from the rivers such as Ayeyarwaddy and Chin Dwin. This year though, it’s been dry in places which usually receive flood warnings,” he said.

“We’re looking to see how it will unfold in the late monsoon period. So while we are monitoring the flood situation in southern Myanmar, we’re hoping for rain in central Myanmar,” he added.

The floods in Burma came at a time when farmers in the affected areas—Karen, Mon and Arakan states, as well as Tenasserim and Irrawaddy divisions—were working on the monsoon paddy. Tens of thousands of acres of fields in Mon and Karen have been inundated.

The paddy can be ruined after a week under water and the farmers will need to work fast to prepare the soil again in order to get the crops ready before the monsoon ends, said Maung Maung Khin.

“It’s not certain whether all the farmers will be able to make it so they will probably need help with this. They have also lost their livestock and other household items,” he said.

“There are health concerns due to the continued presence of floodwaters but the department of health and other organizations are working to monitor the issue and providing timely preventive support so we haven’t seen any outbreaks,” he added.