Yangon authorities ignored reports of fallen power line that electrocuted boy

A drawing of Myo Mins body in the puddle in which he was electrocuted on July 13, 2018. The image has been used as part of an online campaign to fix Yangon’s power grid.
A drawing of Myo Mins body in the puddle in which he was electrocuted on July 13, 2018. The image has been used as part of an online campaign to fix Yangon’s power grid.

A 13-year-old boy was killed on a South Okkalapa street on Friday as he was walking through a puddle in which a downed power line was submerged. The moment of the boy’s death was captured by a nearby security camera, and the video has since gone viral, prompting hundreds of comments criticizing the Yangon Electricity Supply Corporation (YESC) for failing to fix the city’s deadly power grid and for ignoring reports on Friday that could have saved the boy’s life.

“My father-in-law called the [YESC] several times, but no one picked up the phone,” said Katherine Lu, whose car showroom security camera captured the video. She explained to Coconuts that those first calls went out at 3:30pm on Friday, when she and her family noticed the fallen power line and tried to have the power supply shut off. By 5pm, when the boy, reportedly named Myo Min, stepped into the deadly puddle, no one had come to fix the cable, and electricity was still coursing through it.

“After incident, nobody helped him because the electricity still on,” Lu said. “Around 10 minutes after hearing about it, YESC cut off the electricity, and the boy’s parents took him away to hospital, but it was too late to save him.”

After the power was finally cut and the boy taken to the hospital, YESC staff began to fix the power cable and trim the surrounding trees to prevent future damage. Lu, as well as many of the netizens who have shared or commented on the gruesome video, say these after-the-fact fixes offer no assurance that Yangon residents are safe from the city’s dangerous power infrastructure.

“I feel unsafe to stay in Myanmar. We always need to walk through puddles, as there is no pavement, and cars are driving dangerously,” Lu said. “The main problem in Myanmar is that they only fix things temporarily, so it will happen again.”

Several YESC staff members declined to comment for this story.

Puddle electrocutions strike Yangon every rainy season. An estimated 100 people were electrocuted in Yangon in 2015. In 2016, a police officer told local media that people were killed by fallen power cables every day. Local officials proposed repairs to the city’s power grid that year, but much of the city’s power infrastructure remains unchanged after decades of neglect under military rule.

The day after a teenager was electrocuted in one of the busiest streets in downtown Yangon’s business district in May 2016, Coconuts reported that nothing had been changed. Wires continued to hang low above the sidewalk, and no warning about the spot had been posted.

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