Myanmar floods kill 19, displace thousands

Residents use improvised raft to move around in the flooded township of Mawlamyine district in Mon State on June 18, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Ye Aung THU

Floods caused by heavy rain across Myanmar have killed 19 people and displaced around 14,000 families since last week.

The death toll includes eight people in Magway Region, six in Rakhine, and one each in Shan, Mon, Kayah, Sagaing, and Ayeyawady. Unofficial reports put the death toll higher.

“Most deaths were due to being swept away and drowning in strong currents. One victim died after being bitten by a snake while struggling in the flood,” Daw Phyu Lae Lae Tun, the director of Myanmar’s Department of Disaster Management, told the Myanmar Times.

Around 7,500 families have been displaced in Rakhine State, plus 4,000 in Magway Region and 2,500 in Mon State. Also, in Mon State, storms have caused a bridge to collapse, trees to blow over, and landslides to strike. Travel by car and by rail throughout the state was suspended for a day last week.

Myanmar’s Department of Meteorology and Hydrology has predicted that storms will continue to intensify through August. Ineffective drainage systems in Myanmar’s cities and overflowing rivers elsewhere make future floods inevitable. The Department of Disaster Management is reportedly carrying out awareness campaigns to prepare people for coming floods.

In 2015, similar storms throughout Myanmar’s wet season, including Cyclone Komen, killed at least 103 people, destroyed over 15,000 homes, and inundated 1.29 million acres of farm land. Myanmar’s previous government was criticized at the time for its slow response. The current National League for Democracy government was elected a few months later.

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