Dark days for Mon after chain of disasters

Photo Residents go around the area buried by a landslide near Mottama, Mon State. The disaster killed at least 72 people and many others are still missing. Photo - EPA

16 Aug 19 - Source - Myanmar Times - After hearing a rumbling rolling "boom" for five seconds, all the houses, including those of U Khin Maung and his neighbours, were engulfed in stones, rocks and mud.

As he came out of his house after hearing the noise, he saw a pile of mud cover his neighbour's house. Then he heard his neighbours' cries for help.

"I felt very sad. No more happiness for me," U Khin Maung said.

Disastrous days for Mon State started on August 9 after the heavy rain in the first week and a half of August. Many areas in Thaton, Mawlamyine, Kyaikmaraw, Thanbyuzayat and Ye townships were flooded on that morning.

The landside at Malat mountain in Thae Phyu Kone village happened at about 8 am, claiming many lives and shocking the whole country.

Locals in Mon had never before heard of such a chain of disasters – the Mawlamyine flood, land subsidence on Maggin street, the drifting away of a whole house in Thanbyuzayat, road destruction near the border with Tanintharyi Region, and small landslides in many townships.

"This was the worst flooding in our lives. We had never seen or heard of so many people being killed by a storm. We are frightened and sorry," Ye resident Ko Myo Zaw said.

News about the natural disaster spread on social media as residents posted about the suffering around them.

This was not the end. A weather forecast for heavy rain in southern Mon State on August 10 caused great anxiety among Mon residents, making them afraid to sleep.

The heavy rain in southern Mon caused water levels to rise. Even the entrance of Shwesandaw Pagoda, one of the highest parts of Ye township, was under water.

Rainfall and water descended from the mountains, causing a wide expanse of water to cover Ye town and the villages south of the town before midnight that day, which was recorded as the worst flood in 70 years.

Record rainfall

"My house was destroyed. We have no place to live. We don't know what we will do next because of this water," said U Min Swe, whose family evacuated to a relief camp.

Water levels began to recede on August 11 in Ye, but in Kyaikmaraw township, water levels were still rising. On the evening of August 14, the water passed the danger point, leaving most of the town inundated.

Mon gets abundant rainfall, with an average of 160 to 180 days a year, but the number of days has recently decreased to 140 due to global climate change, Mon Chief Minister U Aye Zen told a press conference on Tuesday.

There was an unusual amount of rainfall – 58.51 inches – in the first two weeks of this month, 10 inches more than the rainfall for the entire month of August last year.

Floods hit many parts of the state last year, but this year's flooding resulted in a record-breaking death toll. More such natural disasters are expected in the coming years, said the chief minister.

"We face similar disasters in the future. What we can do is remain prepared," U Aye Zan said.

The government's management of the natural disaster came in for public criticism. During the floods and landslides, the government kept the Pyidaungsu road open as its first priority, and rescue operations were its third priority.

A man carrying monks’ robes through floodwaters in Mawlamyine, Mon State. Photo - EPA

Govt management of disaster

Rescue work for the landslide at Thae Phyu Kone village was carried out with 13 backhoe loaders, 20 trucks, and Myanmar firefighters. On August 9, when the flood started, Hinthar Hall at the state government office was opened as a refugee camp, 60 other refugee camps were opened in Mawlamyine, and 10 in Thaton, U Aye Zan said.

When the floods hit, people and boats were transferred and the minister of Communications and Transportation went to Thanbyuzayat. Pa-O people and Kayin people were sent to Thaton to help. The vice president also visited the state last Saturday to oversee the rescue effort.

A cup of rice, a litre of cooking oil, beans, and two litres of drinking water were given to each refugee at the camp every day. For a household of five people, 24 sardine cans and six bags of instant noodles were given per month. Outside donations are arriving as well.

"The state government has sufficient food because of outside donations," he said. Although the water level has dropped in Mawlamyine and Ye, Kyaikmaraw is still inundated.

Locals fear that because of the Wahkhaung full-moon day, Kyaikmaraw will still be under water for up to two days after. The disaster that began August 9 is still happening, and everyone in Mon, especially in Kyaikmaraw, is worried.


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