Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Rakhine death toll rises to 35 as government begins air drops

By Aung Shin   |   Tuesday, 04 August 2015
At least 35 people have died in heavily flooded Rakhine State, a government official said yesterday, while another six remain missing.
U San Shwe Aung (centre, in blue), permanent secretary of the Ministry for Border Affairs, drops supplies from an air force helicopter to flooded villages in Rakhine State yesterday. (Kaung Htet/The Myanmar Times)U San Shwe Aung (centre, in blue), permanent secretary of the Ministry for Border Affairs, drops supplies from an air force helicopter to flooded villages in Rakhine State yesterday. (Kaung Htet/The Myanmar Times)
Eighteen people were killed in Buthidaung, nine in Mrauk-Oo, one in Kyauktaw and seven in Minbya after the state was ravaged by Cyclone Komen.
The latest deaths bring the national tally to at least 63 killed, though the UN has warned the death toll throughout flood-affected regions – where water has swelled above roof level and displaced thousands – is likely to keep climbing.
As the storm slammed through Rakhine State, one of Myanmar’s poorest regions, a total of 33,848 flood victims in five townships were forced to relocate and 130 internally displaced persons camps had to be resettled, according to the government.
At least 140,000 people displaced in 2012’s deadly sectarian violence, mainly Rohingya Muslims, already live in exposed makeshift camps that largely lack sewage or drainage systems.
The state’s hard-hit northern townships have been declared an emergency zone.
“Kyauktaw, Minbya, Mrauk-Oo, Buthidaung and Maungdaw are the most heavily affected areas in Rakhine State. We declared these five townships flood disaster areas,” Rakhine State Chief Minister U Maung Maung Ohn said yesterday.
As nearly all land transportation has been cut off due to the rising waters, the government has begun airdropping food and essential supplies to affected townships between Minbya and Mrauk-Oo using three military helicopters.
“Six villages in this area were cut off from everything,” said U San Shwe Aung, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Border Affairs.
The regional government has received K700 million of food, clothing and other donations from individuals, according to local officials.
A photographer from The Myanmar Times who accompanied a military helicopter’s survey and aid drop yesterday said the areas visited looked “well-supplied”, and that the water level in some villages had started to decrease, although other areas remained severely inundated.
In Sittwe, the only place to access supplies, the cost of rice had more than doubled, from K20,000 before the flooding to as much as K50,000 a bag yesterday.
“The price of everything has increased in Sittwe since there is no transportation to other cities or towns. No vehicle or boat can go anywhere,” a Sittwe resident told The Myanmar Times.
Officials yesterday said they had already taken action against price gougers.
“It is very important that the rice price does not to increase due to the flooding disaster,” said U Maung Maung Ohn. “We have warned local traders not to inflate the price and to avoid speculating.”
At least 200,000 acres of rice paddy in Rakhine State are thought to have been damaged in the flooding. President U Thein Sein has promised to find a way to compensate farmers for the destroyed crops and also avoid food shortages.
Since the downpours began in Rakhine State at the end of July, there has been no power supply. The state’s capital, Sittwe, is receiving partial electricity through generators, and power is not expected to resume in other areas within a week.
“Three transmission towers were destroyed. It will take at least 10 days or more to repair the transmission lines, according to the Ministry of Electric Power,” said U Maung Maung Ohn.
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