Lashio Hit by Worst Floods in Half a Century

By Man Thar Lay 22 August 2012

LASHIO, Shan State — At least one person is dead and two others are missing after flash floods hit low-lying areas of northern Shan State’s largest city, leaving hundreds homeless.

The flooding, the worst seen in the area in 54 years, has brought transportation in Lashio to a standstill. On the main highway to the city from Muse, on the Sino-Burmese border, vehicles sit half-submerged, abandoned by their owners.

“I just left it there after the water started to rise too high,” said the owner of one car. He said he had set  out at around 8 am on Aug. 19, the first day of the flooding, but soon found himself inundated.

“I have driven on this road for many years, but I’ve never seen anything like this,” he added.

Three days after the deluge began, the worst has passed. However, many residents of the most affected parts of town remain in temporary shelters, wondering when they will be able to return to their homes.

Witnesses said that one victim of the flooding, 30-year-old Maung Aye, was swept away while trying to  recover a gas tank that had been caught in the flow.

“We have to be very careful, because the water is very strong when it comes down from the mountains,” said Thein Htwe Oo, the leader of Lashio’s First Quarter, one of four sections of the city that bore the brunt of the flooding.

In some areas, whole houses were washed away, taking with them personal possessions and even residents who could not flee in time.

Zar Ni Kyaw, another resident of the First Quarter, said her paralyzed father barely escaped with his life. “I was at another house at the time and didn’t hear him calling to me for help. Luckily, some young people in the neighborhood were able to get him out in time,” she said.

Another resident said she ran to the top floor of a high building when she saw the water coming down from the mountain.

“I saw many other houses under water, and could hear people shouting for help. But the water was too strong, so there was nothing anybody could do,” she said.

The local authorities have set up four camps for the 200 people who have been forced out of their homes. Some of the evacuees will not have homes to return to.

Burma’s rainy season has been exceptionally wet this year, with severe flooding reported in many parts of the country, including the Irrawaddy Delta and Karen and Mon states, where thousands have lost their homes.