Twenty-seven schools were closed and more than a thousand people displaced by flooding after the Irrawaddy river overran its banks in Myanmar’s northernmost Kachin state yesterday.
Residents of Bhamo and Shwegu were forced out of their homes on Monday night as water poured into the low-lying areas of the two towns, according to a statement on the website of the Office of the Commander-In-Chief of Defence Services, which also included images of the military rescuing the displaced.
“Military officers supporting displaced citizens in Myitkyina, Tanaing township and Bhamo Township in Kachin State and Bilin Township in Mon State due to flooding caused by heavy monsoon rains,” the statement read.
Local media also reported on the flooding in Kachin state, where local government had set up five flood centers to house the displaced.
“If we include the people who were also displaced today, there are more than 1,300 people who are displaced. Many of the displaced are now with their relatives. Others are staying in schools and monasteries,” Bhamo General Administration Department officer Daw Tu Tu Ma told Eleven Myanmar.
“We have also set up five refugee camps for those displaced by flooding. There are 400 people who are staying there right now. There are still some that we haven’t accounted for yet.”
According to residents, local government groups, party officials, and the military have been working hard to relocate those who have been displaced, though many have yet to be reached.
“There are some people who are still trapped. There are still many villages to get to,” Bhamo resident Ko Chi Thar told the local outlet.
Travel between Bhamo and Shwegu is also temporarily stalled.
In recent years, Myanmar’s annual monsoon has caused severe flooding that has displaced tens of thousands of residents, particularly those living in rural areas. Last year, five people were killed and more than 100,000 people were affected by heavy monsoon rains in Karen state, Mon state and the Bago region.
In 2015, Myanmar experienced one of its worst years of flooding. Large swaths of land were completely submerged, leading to at least 100 deaths and displacing hundreds of thousands.
According to the latest government estimates, more than 20,000 people have been affected by flooding in Kachin state, Sagaing state, Chin Stat and Rakhine State this year. Moreover, local media has reported that more than 10,000 people have been displaced by floodwaters in the Kachin state capital, Myitkyina.
Myanmar is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to the effects of climate change, with unpredictable weather, extreme weather events and record-breaking floods becoming the new norm.
In 2008, Cyclone Nargis decimated the then-isolated country, with conservative death estimates of 138,000 people, and billions of dollars of economic damage caused.