Irrawaddy threatens to overflow, leaving villagers with just sand bags for protection

  • Myanmar
  • Friday, 07 Aug 2015

Doing their part: Soldiers carrying relief aid for flood victims in Yangon, Myanmar. — EPA

HINTHADA (Myanmar): Myanmar’s president called for the evacuation of low-lying areas as the Irrawaddy river threatened to breach embankments, leaving villagers with just sand-bags to hold back churning waters that have hit much of the country.

Floods from a heavy monsoon season have cut through swathes of South and South-East Asia in recent weeks, claiming hundreds of lives and displacing millions.

Twelve of Myanmar’s 14 regions have been struck, with officials saying 74 people have been killed and more than 330,000 affected – many forced into monasteries and other makeshift shelters after their homes were inundated.

In a picture muddied by damaged communications, relief agencies said floods had receded in some northern and western areas allowing supplies of food and clean water to trickle in, although landslides were still a threat.

The centre and south are now bracing for floods as water drains through the vast Irrawaddy delta.

In a message broadcast on radio early yesterday, President Thein Sein said areas near the Irrawaddy were at risk as the river rises “above danger level”.

“As we cannot prevent natural disasters, I urge fellow citizens to move to safer places... it’s the best way,” he said, adding Hinthada and Nyaung Don townships along the river were in immediate danger.

In Hinthada, the army yesterday helped residents prepare for floods, securing belongings inside homes and reinforcing embankments with sand bags, with villages on the other side of the barriers already submerged up to their roof-tops.

Boat driver Than Naing said this year’s monsoon was the worst in living memory, as he helped ferry people across an expanse of dark water that has swallowed rice fields.

“I have never seen anything like this. Every year it floods a bit but not like this,” he told reporters.

“My parents are about 70 years old and they haven’t seen floods like this before.”

International aid efforts have buttressed the response of the army and local communities, following a rare appeal by the government for outside help.

But thousands of people are still feared stranded in rugged and remote Chin State after days of rain caused flash floods and landslides that swept away homes, roads and bridges. — AFP

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