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Villagers say they have been baffled by the appearance of an unusual, yellow dust that has sprinkled over their town in Kachin State this week, while local weather experts have identified it as a phenomenon known as the ‘Asian Brown Cloud’.
A local in the village of Mopein, Bhamo, told DVB that the flake-like matter had been raining down since the beginning of December.
“These gold and silver coloured algae-like flakes began falling from the sky on a small stretch of land near Mopein village. It doesn’t stain clothing, but changes colour a bit when washed,” the resident said.
“My guess is that it is some kind of an ash – since it wasn’t hard but rather brittle like bread crumbs.”
Dr Tun Lwin, an independent weather expert and former head of Burma’s Department of Meteorology and Hydrology (DMH), said it was related to the Asian Brown Cloud.
“There has been an unusual cloud of dust and other particles emitted in the air by volcanic explosions and warm weather that has been floating above Asia for a while. My guess is that is what has caused the cloud in Bhamo. It can’t be for any other reason,” he said, adding that the dust can cause respiratory and other breathing problems.
The Asian Brown Cloud, a thick layer of pollutant particles, is associated with the winter monsoon period over the Asian continent, beginning in November – December. A 2002 study published in medical journal The Lancet reported significant health complications and a high death toll correlated with the cloud.
Zaw Thin, the recently elected National League for Democracy candidate in the area, said three towns had reported seeing the same matter.
“The phenomenon begins with a sweet-smelling fragrance usually followed by a shower of the gold coloured flakes. It happened on the first and second of December around the stupa near the entrance to Mopein village.
“In the following days, in an area called Manywat and also along the road from Bhamo to Mansi to the south, it rained some pebble or glass-like substance,” said Zaw Thin.
DMH regional director for upper-Burma Kyaw Lwin Oo agreed that it could be an unusual weather occurrence.
“It could be due to the dust and other particles in the atmosphere brought along by the wind,” Kyaw Lwin Oo said.