Disasters in 2019 highlight need for comprehensive mitigation programme

Picture People wait for rescue on a bridge as raging flood waters turn a highway into a river. Photo: Myanmar Times

Myanmar can't escape from natural hazards, with earthquakes, landslides and floods claiming lives and destroying billions of kyat in property and crops.

20 Dec 19 - Source: Myanmar Times - People here are no strangers to earthquakes, with several destructive tremors shaking the country every year. The Chauk earthquake in Bagan in 2016 damaged ancient pagodas and other buildings. In 2017, there was the Taikkyi quake, and last year, there was the Phyu quake.

According to the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology the country was hit by over 200 quakes between January 2 and December 15, most of them weak to moderate in strength.

On November 12, a magnitude 4.1 quake shook Yangon, causing panic among city folk. It caused some buildings to lean off-kilter in Thingangyun and Tarmwe townships. Eight of the buildings need repairs, according to city officials. A small building at Shwedagon Pagoda was damaged by the tremor.

The incident renewed calls for stricter quality control of buildings and a more comprehensive earthquake plan. They also want regular inspections of buildings for structural integrity, especially those in earthquake-prone areas.

"Earthquakes occur frequently. We have to be careful," said Daw Hla Hla Aung, an earthquake expert.

Experts say that as earthquakes are unpredictable, government officials must ensure the public is prepared, through education and drills.

The Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief & Resettlement, and Department of Natural Disaster Management are spearheading earthquake drills and awareness campaigns in cooperation with international organisations, including UN agencies. Yangon Region already has an Earthquake Preparedness and Response Plan, but it needs to conduct education campaigns to ensure earthquake preparedness in communities.

Myanmar is also susceptible to landslides during the rainy season.

The most destructive catastrophe of this kind this year was the Malat Taung landslide in Mon State on August 10, which killed 72 people and injured 28. The landslide also buried 27 homes, five trucks, and a car.

Landslides also occurred in Chin, Shan, Rakhine and Tanintharyi states and regions.

The deadly twin of landslides during the rainy season is flash floods, which sometimes strike together. Officials said this year's flash floods killed 10 people and displaced thousands more.

This year, flash floods struck in Mon, Kayin, Rakhine, Kachin, Bago, Yangon, Ayeyarwady, Tanintharyi, and Magwe states and regions.

The Disaster Management Department said that over 200,000 people were displaced by earthquakes, flash floods and landslides this year.

Experts urged the government to mitigate the effects of disasters through public awareness campaigns and come up with comprehensive plans that address natural calamities

– Translated

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