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Thousands of people in western Arakan State are seeking food, fresh water and shelter as monsoonal floodwaters continue to drive them from their homes.
The main townships affected are reported to be Minbya, Ponnagyun, Mrauk-U, Pauktaw and Kyauktaw, where water levels have not dropped since flash floods struck the region on 3 July.
In the town of Minbya and at least 25 surrounding villages, many families have evacuated their homes and are currently sheltering on high ground, in places such as monasteries and makeshift camps, Minbyar Social Assistance Organisation chairman Khin Zaw Win told DVB.
“On Monday, floodwaters flowed through every neighbourhood in Minbya,” he said. “The water was up to chest high. People had to evacuate to higher ground. The local monastery was full, so some people had to shelter in farm huts. Rice paddies have been inundated, and now we have shortages of rice, fresh water and food. The water levels are still so high that we cannot access many areas to help those people.”
He said that a local volunteer youth group and other donors are trying to help flood victims, but they do not have enough supplies.
In Ponnakyun, more than 20 villages were evacuated when the Kaladan River overflowed earlier this week, local headmaster Thaung Sein told DVB.
“In our area, more than 20 villages are flooded, with water levels around waist deep,” he said. “Evacuees have crowded into places like monasteries on high ground. They need help. They need shelter. I haven’t seen any organization deliver aid to them, although individual donors are doing what they can.”
He noted that paddy fields had been flooded for three or four days, and if they were not drained soon, the rice crop would be destroyed.
Reports from Mrauk-U, a popular site for tourists due to its ancient Buddhist ruins, indicate that almost the entire town is underwater, as are surrounding villages. No word has been received about the archaeological zone, though it mostly sits on elevated ground. It was reported, however, that several families were sheltering at the celebrated Mahamuni temple, the original site of the sacred Mahamuni Buddha image before it was plundered and moved to its present site of the same name in Mandalay.
Closer to the coast, in the town of Kyaung Taung on the Mayu River, about 200 households have been evacuated, while around 20 houses or farms had been destroyed by floodwaters.
The Arakanese regional government is coordinating relief efforts and issued instructions on Tuesday to each respective township administrator, according to regional assembly secretary Tin Maung Swe.
“We have coordinated with flood victims in Mrauk-U, Kyauktaw and Minbya, where we have delivered around 100 sacks of rice, and boxes of dried noodles and eggs for each township. We have instructed the local administrators to go out and offer people whatever help they need.”