Short on boats, Myanmar flood rescuers seek public support

Flood victims in Kayin State around July 27, 2018. Photo: Myanmar Free Ambulance
Flood victims in Kayin State around July 27, 2018. Photo: Myanmar Free Ambulance

At least five people have been killed and 54,000 displaced by floods that hit central, eastern, and southern Myanmar last week. Government departments and other organizations have descended on the flooded villages to evacuate people whose homes and farms were destroyed by the water, but rescuers say they lack the staff and supplies necessary to remove all the victims from danger.

“[Thousands] have been displaced or lost everything they own,” said Anthony Quick, the executive advisor at Myanmar Free Ambulance, which has been assisting with evacuation efforts since the floods struck. “Roads are damaged, and there are landslides along the mountainous parts of the road, flooding in the low areas, and dangerous currents sweeping people, animals, and possessions away with them.”

Quick said the response to the crisis has been robust, with the Myanmar military, police, fire brigades, Kayin State government, local governments, Myanmar Red Cross Society, Rotary Club of Yangon, and other volunteer groups assisting with evacuations. However, many of these groups lack the primary piece of equipment needed to save lives – boats.

“There are not enough boats to move people out, even with the local fishing boats, according to our volunteers on site,” Quick said. He said Myanmar Free Ambulance is planning to launch its next mission in the flood zones as soon as they are able to buy a boat.

“Without that, we’re pretty worthless,” he said.

A flat-bottomed boat they would need to carry out evacuations and shuttle in supplies has an estimated cost of US$5,500. The organization has called on the public donate to its boat fund through its website.

Once enough boats are available, rescuers will be able to deliver evacuees to one of the dozens of makeshift camps that have popped up in temples, churches, and private homes situated on dry ground.

Quick said: “People need evacuation because the water is still rising; the rain is still pouring down.”

Myanmar is hit by deadly storms and floods every year. In 2015, scientists ranked Myanmar as the country most affected by extreme weather caused by climate change.

This year, Myanmar Free Ambulance has produced and is regularly updating a map of the flooded areas:

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