Each year, as Burma’s monsoon season reaches its peak, stories of inundated fields, homes and entire villages pour into the DVB newsroom. Poor drainage systems and a chronic lack of preparedness leave much of the country — urban and rural alike — highly vulnerable to storm damage and the unsanitary conditions that come with prolonged floodwater stagnation.
DVB’s Thanoe Wai recently visited the city of Pegu [Bago], capital of the administrative division of the same name, just north of Rangoon. Flooding is a recurring problem in Pegu, and locals have pleaded with the government for assistance. Thanoe Wai’s images capture some of the severity Pegu’s floods, and the ways in which people are dealing with their watery surroundings.
Khin Thein Maung, a regional administrator in Pegu, said that 18 relief camps have opened up across the division to shelter some 10,000 flood-affected people. He said that 23 schools were forced to shut down as thousands of acres were inundated by recent storms.
Tun Lwin, a weather expert and former head of the government’s Department of Meteorology and Hydrology, warned that a “supermoon” on 10 August is likely to make matters worse.
“The supermoon is expected to trigger tidal waves up to seven feet high near Rangoon and other regions close to shore. This is pretty much sure to happen,” he predicted. Tun Win expects that Rangoon and Pegu will be among the most affected.
Last year, about 50,000 people were displaced by flash floods in Pegu Division, according to the United Nations. In addition, some 60,000 acres of farmland were flooded, with about 15,000 severely damaged.
In a 2013 situation bulletin on Burma, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs stressed the need to “strengthen disaster risk reduction and preparedness activities to mitigate the impact of natural disasters on vulnerable populations in the coming years”.