Rescue teams scramble as rains lash Burma

In the central Burmese township of Kawlin, volunteers are working around the clock to save villagers from swelling floodwaters.

The village tract has been one of the hardest hit, as rain continues to pound flood-drenched Burma.

Twenty have been killed across the country, according to the Burmese government’s Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement.

In Kawlin, those who cannot walk are stretchered away from a town where 3,000 are now homeless, after close to 2,000 homes were destroyed.

One farmer described losing his entire rice harvest as well as his freshly planted crop, as 8-foot deep water forced him to relocate his family and livestock.

“I was evacuated to Kawlin after the water level in my village reached knee height. I lost my belongings  and my rice paddies in the floods,” said farmer Bo Aye.

An emergency relief shelter has been opened at the Dakhinarama Buddhist monastery in Kawlin town. The place of worship now home for some of the 8,600 flood victims from Kawlin and nearby villages.

Kawlin Township Development Committee has coordinated the emergency efforts.

Monsoonal rains have drenched Chin and Arakan states, as well as Mandalay, Pegu and Sagaing divisions.

“The rainfall this year is quite spread out,” said the organisation’s chair, Ne Win.

“In the past, the floods would last only about a day at the longest. Now, there is floodwater blanketing a large stretch of area from here to Kantbalu. Usually overflow from local water ways would flow into the Mu and Thaphanseik creeks but as the whole area is covered in rain.”

One charity worker said the flooding in Sagaing is the worst in living memory.

“Nowadays, we are experiencing floods in highlands that we never had before due to deforestation. They are destroying topsoil and causing erosion and flash floods in the central Burma dry region, which is actually very alarming,” said Nyi Nyi Aung a worker who had travelled from Prome, Pegu Division, to assist relief efforts in  Kawlin.

Many agree that man’s impact on the environment has exacerbated the flood danger.

Abbot Kawidaza too travelled to Kawlin, from his Nyeinmya Yadana monastery in Mandalay.

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“Authorities said local reservoirs had to be opened up as the volume of water became too much to hold – the government built more dams than they can maintain, which has caused these floods. This wouldn’t have happened if they hadn’t been full,” he told DVB.

At this stage, there is still no sign that a much hoped-for rainbow may be on the way.

Low pressure systems over the Bay of Bengal are likely to trigger heavy rains across western and into central Burma. State media in Bangladesh has classified it as a cyclonic storm.

Burma’s meteorological department has announced that floodwaters could rise in the coming 24 hours, meaning locals in Kawlin, and in flood-affected areas across Burma, will have to wait before they get a chance to rebuild their lives.

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