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Burma said on Tuesday it had appealed for international assistance to help provide food, temporary shelter and clothing for more than 210,000 people affected by widespread flooding following weeks of heavy monsoon rains.
At least 47 people have died in the floods, according to the government.
Burma’s call for international aid stands in sharp contrast to stance taken when it was ruled by generals. The junta had refused outside help in the wake of a devastating cyclone in 2008, when 130,000 people perished in the disaster.
While the quasi-civilian government, which took power in 2011 and faces elections in November, is leading the relief effort, but the military is handling operations on the ground.
“We are cooperating and inviting international assistance. We have started contacting possible donor organizations and countries,” Ye Htut, the minister of information and spokesman for the President’s Office said.
He said international assistance was also needed to relocate people and rebuild communities after the floodwaters retreat. With a per capita GDP of US$1,105, Burma, officially known as Myanmar, is one of the poorest countries in East Asia and the Pacific.
The Chinese Embassy in Rangoon began providing relief supplies to stricken areas this week.
The minister said that the floodwaters have begun to recede in Arakan State on the west coast, which suffered some of the worst flooding after being lashed by the tail of Cyclone Komen, which made landfall in Bangladesh late last week.
Areas northeast of the Arakan state capital, Sittwe, including Mrauk-U and Minbya, were particularly hard hit.
Video footage shot by Reuters on Monday aboard a military helicopter in Arakan showed hundreds of people rushing through muddy floodwaters to collect air dropped supplies.
Arakan, or Rakhine, is home to around 140,000 displaced people, mainly Rohingya Muslims who live in squalid camps scattered across the state.
Emergency workers were still facing difficulties in Chin State on Tuesday after the rain caused landslides in the mountainous state that borders India and Bangladesh.
Main roads running through the state remained impassible and attempts to access cities by helicopter were hampered by the relentless downpours, Ye Htut said.
The state-owned Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper, citing the Ministry of Education, said that more than 1,300 schools across the country had been shuttered due to the floods.
Shwe Mann, the speaker of parliament, has also postponed the reconvening of parliament scheduled for 10 August, in what will be the final session before the country heads to the polls on 8 November.
Hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland have been inundated by the floods, with the UN warning that this could, “disrupt the planting season and impact long-term food security.”
The Global New Light reported that the Myanmar Rice Federation would halt exports until mid-September in an effort to stabilise domestic rice prices and keep rice in country.
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