Floods destroy refugee huts, food stocks

Heavy flooding in western Thailand has caused widespread damage in two populous refugee camps, wiping away rudimentary houses and food storage facilities.

The two camps, Mae La Oon and Mae Ra Ma Luang, together house more than 34,000 refugees who have fled conflict in neighbouring Karen state. Days of heavy raining in the region south of the Thai town of Mae Sariang caused water levels in a nearby creek to rise.

Seven wards in Mae Ra Ma Luang are now submerged, according to Saw Hsar Leh, a school teacher in the camp.

“Over 300 houses went under water and over 100 houses were destroyed,” he told DVB today. “Some houses had their roofs and walls destroyed. Victims are now taking shelter at their friends’ houses, churches and the school building.”

Roads and bridges in the camp are also heavily damaged, as is the main road to Mae Sariang, which acts as a key supply route to Mae Ra Ma Luang. Alls schools are now closed.

In nearby Mae La Oon, which lies close to Thailand’s border with Burma and houses around 16,000 refugees, numbers of houses and churches have also been destroyed.

Camp chairman Saw Kaw Wah said there was also concern about potential for landslides in the hilly sections of the camp.

“One church was swept away by the water and another one had its stilts damaged. Seven houses had their stilts damaged and nine were completely destroyed.”

Officials in the camp are compiling damage reports to send to NGOs based along the border. No casualties have so far been recorded. Flooding began to subside yesterday but waters remain high in some areas.

Large areas of Thailand and Burma have experienced severe flooding in recent weeks as persistent rains take their toll on buildings and infrastructure. As many as 10,000 people were forced to leave their homes in Pegu in eastern Burma a fortnight ago when around a third of the town was submerged.

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