Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Food shortages and swelling rivers stymie villagers’ efforts to recover

By Maung Zaw With AFP   |   Wednesday, 05 August 2015
Food shortages have struck some towns in Magwe Region where heavy monsoon flooding has left residents without access to drinking water, has caused massive power cuts and has submerged crops.
Families taking refuge at the Ka Lal Kone Village Monestary in Pwintbyu township wait for water levels to recede. (Aung Khant/The Myanmar Times)Families taking refuge at the Ka Lal Kone Village Monestary in Pwintbyu township wait for water levels to recede. (Aung Khant/The Myanmar Times)
As Cyclone Komen lashed through Myanmar and augmented intense monsoon downpours, flash floods and landslides killed at least 63 people and displaced more than 215,000, though the UN has said the numbers will likely continue to rise as the worst-affected areas face ongoing, swamp-like conditions and further downpours.
The torrential rains have also taken a toll on neighbouring Bangladesh and India, where entire villages have been swept underwater. In West Bengal, 1.2 million people are staying at temporary shelters, while 180 lives were claimed throughout the country.
In Kaungtawya Pagoda, Seikphyu township, where many flood victims are currently living, there has been a lack of food after the area was cut off from transportation.
“Due to engine boat trouble, transportation is difficult in this area,” said Ma Khin Thein, a flood victim from Minzan village.
“Even though some people come and donate here, they cannot carry much because there is no motorised boat to bring them. So the amount of food is not enough, especially for the people who remain in remote villages,” she said.
Tens of thousands of people nationwide remain isolated as officials warn that swollen rivers are now threatening to inundate low-lying southern areas of the country.
In Magwe Region, Minzan, Mandalaysu, Thajetaw, Thafandan, Thaminchan, Winjwa and Kanphyu-ku are also all practically cut off, even though the water level has began a gradual decline.
“Nobody dares to come to this village as they have to cross Moun Creek with its strong water current,” said Ko Aye Than, another local flood victim.
There are some 15 villages between the Ayeyarwady River and Moun Creek where people are facing dangerous conditions including collapsing riverbanks and strong currents, according to residents from Minzan village.
In Pwintbyu township, the water level has begun to recede, and residents have started to return and attempt to muck out their homes and repair all the damaged infrastructure.
“The water level is dropping, so rehabilitation started from August 3,” said a township official who declined to provide a name.
“However it is difficult business, and there are fallen electricity lines and dirty school buildings needing repairs. Military, police, fire brigades and the public are all involved in this process.”
A police official told The Myanmar Times that schools and hospitals will soon be reopened.
According to state-run media, more than 1300 schools across the country had been closed due to the flooding. Parliamentary sessions have also been suspended.
“I will now go back to my village because the water level has decreased there. After cleaning my home, I will do my job as before,” said U Kyaw Soe from Thayet Oat village near Pwintbyu.
Translation by Khin San May and Thiri Min Htun
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