By Aung Shin | Thursday, 06 August 2015
The number of confirmed casualties in Rakhine State has hit 55 and is likely to rise further, officials reported yesterday, as civil society groups and residents said drinking water shortages were the main concern.
A body is transported on a boat through mangrove forest in Mrauk-Oo township on August 4. Photo: Kaung Htet / The Myanmar TimesA body is transported on a boat through mangrove forest in Mrauk-Oo township on August 4. Photo: Kaung Htet / The Myanmar Times
The northern part of Rakhine has been among the hardest-hit by recent floods that have afflicted 12 of Myanmar’s 14 states and regions, affecting an estimated 260,000 people.
But many areas remain virtually cut off from assistance, reachable only by helicopter.
“The death toll could increase. There are still villages that we haven’t reached yet,” U Tin Maung Swe, state-level administrator in Sittwe told The Myanmar Times.
The regional government is supplying food and other aid to villages through airdrops using military helicopters. A total of 180 flights have been undertaken since August 2.
“Airdrops of food supplies with helicopters are not sufficient. It is just to provide mental encouragement to the flood victims. We are now going by small boats to villages in very remote areas,” U Tin Maung Swe said.
According to the regional government, five townships in northern Rakhine State have been classified flood disaster zones – Kyauktaw, Minbya, Mrauk-Oo, Buthidaung and Maungdaw – with as many as 300,000 people affected.
As well as the human toll, thousands of livestock and at least 200,000 acres of paddy have been damaged.
But many more acres of paddy are likely to be damaged in the disaster-hit northern part of Rakhine, which has between 800,000 and 900,000 acres of rich paddy fields, according to official data.
Similarly, Rakhine residents are sceptical of the official casualty figures.
“The government’s figures are not reliable. It seems that government officials are reluctant to release the real number of casualties. There are some villages still disconnected,” said U
Khine Pray Soe, vice chair of the Rakhine National Party.
He said drinking water was the most urgent need among flood-hit communities.
“We have no idea how we can solve the drinking water problem at the moment. There are also difficulties for cooking,” he said.
When The Myanmar Times travelled to villages around Mrauk-Oo on August 4, residents were covering long distances in small boats in the hope of finding drinking water. Other boats were searching for bodies.
Most land transport routes and power lines have been cut off in Rakhine State due to the flooding. The capital city, Sittwe, has received limited electricity through the use of generators.
Meanwhile, the telecommunication system, which was poor to begin with, has also been badly damaged in many areas. As a result, remote villages remain out of contact with government officials and civil society groups.
“The death toll could be at least 100,” said U San Kyaw, a member of a Sittwe charitable organisation.
His association set up a temporary centre in Sittwe to accept donations from individuals and arrange delivery. As of yesterday evening it had received K100 million in cash, as well as many goods.
“We are going to very disconnected villages where nobody is reaching,” said U Thein Tun Aung, another association’s member.
The group has dispatched supply boats to remote villages, travelling to Mrauk-Oo three times and Minbya twice, he said.
One Mrauk-Oo resident said on August 4 that while the worst of the flooding was over, there was still a shortage of supplies.
“The water went down in many parts of town and people are almost back to normal. But they are waiting for aid to arrive,” he said.