Four Deaths, Three Missing in Flooding Caused by Dam Breach

By The Irrawaddy 31 August 2018

YANGON—Four people have died and three others, including one boy, are missing as a result of flooding of caused by spillwater from a dam on Swar Creek in Taungoo District in Bago Region, according to the Bago Region Government Office on Friday afternoon.

Water from the dam on Swar Creek has been flowing across the land and into Sittaung River since Wednesday after the dam breached, causing flooding across four townships: Yedashe, Taunggu, Oktwin and Kyauk Gyi, in Taungoo District. The regional government has opened 85 relief camps for more than 31,000 affected in those townships. A total of 319 schools are also temporarily closed due to the floods.

Four bodies—including those of a pregnant woman, a 17-year-old boy and two male adults—were found in Swar Township where the dam waters first flooded, confirmed the spokesman of the Bago Region Government Office. The missing persons are an eleven-year-old boy, the driver of a truck and a military major from Infantry Battalion 84.

23 villages tracts in these townships have been affected by floods from the dam and the government has been providing assistance to those affected in temporary relief camps, said U Saw Nyo Win, Bago Region’s Minister of Natural Resources, Forestry and Environmental Conservation and the regional government’s spokesperson.

On Thursday, the government said more than 63,000 people from 18 village tracts in Yedashe and Swar townships have been affected. Water levels are now decreasing in the area as the water flows downstream in the Sittaung River.

Rehabilitation of the affected villages will take time, said U Saw Nyo Win, as the government is still assessing the damage.

Bago Region faces floods every year due to the heavy rainfall but this is the first time a flood has been caused by the breaching of a dam.

“We have nothing left,” said, Daw Phyo Phyo from Shwe Tha Byay, a village in Swar Township. Her house was dragged away by the floodwater.

As soon as she got telephone calls from friends who live closer to the dam on Wednesday morning, she and some 200 villagers ran from their homes within fifteen minutes. They fled with only the clothes on their backs.

“When we started running, we saw the water already coming to us,” added Daw Phyo Phyo.

“We did not have any warning about the floods,” said villagers interviewed by The Irrawaddy.

U San Myint, another resident of Shwe Tha Byay told The Irrawaddy on Thursday, “We are worried. As the floodwater came in the early morning, we had time to run. If not [the daytime] we wouldn’t have had time to run.”

“What if we face more heavy rains? We are concerned,” he added. “Even though a small part of the dam breached, we faced this much loss. If the breach was bigger, we can’t image our fate. I have no doubt that those who live nearer to the riverbank will have to suffer more.”

The water flow from Swar Creek’s dam also caused damage to Swar Bridge on the Yangon-Mandalay expressway and briefly disrupted transport, but officials had repaired it by Thursday.

A day after the flooding in Swar, local residents of Okpho Township, in western Bago also faced flooding on Thursday afternoon. On Friday, The Irrawaddy learnt that one male adult had died and a teenage boy was missing from the area.

U Kyaw Zin Oo, the local township administrator, told The Irrawaddy that the temporary relief camps are operating while 32 villages in eight village tracts are flooded from heavy rainfall and the accumulation of water from upstream. Okpho faces floods almost every year, but nothing as huge as this year, he added.

Htet Naing Zaw and Kaung Myat Min contributed to this report from Yedashe and Okpho townships.