Sunday, August 2, 2015

Relief teams, donors struggle to reach hardest-hit regions

By Aye Sapay Phyu and Nyan Lynn Aung   |   Monday, 03 August 2015

Floodwaters began to subside in some hard-hit areas of the country yesterday but relief workers were still struggling to reach the hundreds of thousands of people affected, including tens of thousands of displaced.
An aerial view shows the flooded area of Kalay, Sagaing Region, on August 1. Photos: AFPAn aerial view shows the flooded area of Kalay, Sagaing Region, on August 1. Photos: AFP

Stranded communities in Rakhine State and Magwe Region told The Myanmar Times they were running out of food, potable water and other supplies, despite some support arriving from private donors.
In Pwinbyu township, Magwe Region, residents reported yesterday that all road were inaccessible and many areas could be reached only by boat.
Sayadaw U Waya Manda, from Mahar Si Monastery in Pwinbyu’s Kaung Zaw village, said by phone that his monastery was virtually out of supplies.
“No donation groups have arrived in our area yet. We’ve only got enough food to last a couple more days unless we get help,” he said.
A journalist who visited Magwe, Pwinbyu and Sidoktaya townships in recent days said that many donors were coming to the area but transportation was difficult.
“There are still so many areas that can’t be reached and many people have been suffering from the floods. The water is nearly 5 feet [1.5 metres] deep at the moment and it’s not going down yet,” he said.
Sayadaw U Tayzaw Bar Tha of Alodawpyay Monastery in Mrauk Oo said floodwaters were still rising, with some houses now completely under water.
Reports of deaths have filtered in from remote villages in the township, including Pa Zon Phae village, but no casualties have been recorded in the downtown area, he said.
“We are facing trouble with a lack of food because people did not have any time to prepare for the flood – it was a real surprise,” he said, adding that government officials were struggling to provide assistance because they too had been affected.
But in other parts of the country there was better news.
Water was yesterday beginning to subside in Kalay, in far-western Sagaing Region, after days of heavy flooding. Resident U Hlaing Aung said the water had been up to rooftop level.
“Half of downtown Kalay was flooded – I’ve never seen anything like it, and I’ve been living in Kalay since 1989,” he said.
Infrastructure has been badly damaged, however; landslides have cut roads and bridges have been swept away by the torrential rains.
“There was no electricity because the substation was underwater,” he said yesterday.
In the eastern part of the township, six camps have been opened for more than 8000 people displaced by the flooding, said U Min Lwin, a resident of Kalay. Altogether more than 70,000 people have been affected in Kalay township, he added.
“We need food, medicine, rice and clothes,” he said. “But the situation in Kalay is a bit better than previous days – the rain has stopped, there is some sunshine and the floodwater has started to go down.”
U Khine Pho Htoo, a member of Minbya Township Civil Network Group in Rakhine State, which was battered by Cyclone Komen over the weekend, said water levels had dropped from 6 feet to about 3 feet in the town. However, more than 10,000 people from surrounding towns and villages were still in relief camps and unable to return home.
“We are arranging food for them. More than 40 villages around Minbya township were flooded. The most important need is water, because of the contamination of most ponds and wells. Paddy fields have also been destroyed,” he said yesterday.
According to reports, 12 people died when a boat capsized in Nga Zin Rai creek near Minbya, and two others died in nearby Min Bu village.
In Bago township, meanwhile, residents were doing their best to cope as water levels in the worst-affected areas rose to about 4 feet.
Ko La Pyae Way, a member of the Keep Hope Alive Charity Foundation, said about 1000 people had been shifted from their homes to a monastery.
Sixteen other camps have opened across the township, he added.
“The situation is not too bad because floods often happen in that area,” he said.
While flooding has been the main threat, the Myanmar Red Cross Society said on August 1 that 16 families in a village 4 miles (6.4 kilometres) from Hakha, the Chin State capital, had lost their homes in landslide.
“The first task is to repair the roads. Rice prices in Chin hill towns like Hakha, Tiddim and Ton Zang have soared and stocks are running out. Big trucks cannot be used to transport food because of the road conditions,” said U Hlaing Aung.
Thousands are still in need of aid, said the MRCS, which has already distributed relief items such as hygiene kits, family kits, kitchen sets, mosquito nets and dignity kits in the most seriously affected areas and is trying to assist further, especially with food.
The organisation has also called for donations, in kyat or US dollars. Contributions can be made to its account, 0270 121 0000 8463 (for US dollars), at the United Amara Bank branch on Thein Phyu Road, or 0270 101 0000 2771 (for kyat) at the same bank.

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