Thousands flee Myanmar floods

Thousands flee Myanmar floods

Residents use a boat to transport goods through floodwaters on a street in Hpa-an, the capital of Karen state, on Friday. (AFP Photo)
Residents use a boat to transport goods through floodwaters on a street in Hpa-an, the capital of Karen state, on Friday. (AFP Photo)

HPA-AN, Myanmar: Floodwaters have forced thousands from their homes in southeastern Myanmar, local police said on Friday, as authorities and volunteers scrambled to provide food and aid to the victims.

Heavy monsoon rains have pounded Karen state, Mon state and Bago region in recent days and show no sign of abating, raising fears that the worst might be yet to come.

Photos and videos showed residents of Hpa-an, the Karen state capital, boating down streets that had turned into rivers while others were forced to escape on foot through waist-deep water.

Vast swathes of the surrounding land lay submerged while 11 temporary camps have been set up around the city.

“There are more than 6,000 people displaced in Hpa-an and about 4,000 in Myawaddy,” the head of the Karen state police force, Kyi Linn, told AFP, referring to a second town on the border with Thailand.

A social welfare ministry official previously said 16,000 people had been displaced across eight townships in Karen state.

The number affected in Mon state and Bago region has not yet been confirmed.

“The children’s school has closed,” said Khin San Win, who fled her home which was thigh-deep in water for a shelter in Hpa-an along with her sick husband and their three children.

“We’re being given food but we aren’t able to pay for anything else as we can’t work.”

State-run media published pictures on Friday of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi visiting Karen state the day before, talking to victims, relief workers and volunteers.

The Global New Light Of Myanmar newspaper said her government had freed up 200 million kyat ($140,000) to help those displaced and that rebuilding destroyed bridges would be a priority.

“We are now delivering food to flood victims who don’t want to leave their homes,” said volunteer Ni Ni Aung in Kyonedoe town, adding they would have no choice but to leave if the rains worsened.

So far no casualties have been reported.

Climate scientists in 2015 ranked Myanmar first on a global list of countries hardest hit by extreme weather.

That year more than 100 people died in floods that also displaced hundreds of thousands across the country.

Some 138,000 people were killed in 2008 when Cyclone Nargis lashed vast stretches of Myanmar’s coast.

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