At least 11 people have been killed and thousands forced to flee their homes as heavy monsoon rains inundate Myanmar, leading to flash floods and landslides in parts of the Southeast Asian country that have also damaged a renowned Buddhist pagoda.
Myanmar is particularly disaster-prone, and is ranked as the “most at risk” country in Asia by the UN Risk Model, vulnerable to cyclones, flooding, extreme temperatures, earthquakes, and landslides. According to the Myanmar Red Cross Society, some 23,000 people have been temporarily displaced or evacuated in flooding that has hit 10 regions and has described as the worst in 40 years. Myanmar’s southern Mon State has been particularly hard-hit, with no end to the seasonal monsoon yet in sight.
Townships in Bago, Magway, Nay Pyi Taw, Sagaing, and Yangon regions, as well as Kayin, Mon, Rakhine, and Shan states have been affected.
“Floods and landslides have killed 11 people so far, while about 23,000 people have been temporarily displaced or evacuated,” said Myanmar Red Cross Society secretary general Khin Maung Hla. “The worst affected area is southeastern Mon State. More than 15,000 people have been sheltered in temporary camps since last week.” (Anadolu Agency)
The torrential rains also triggered a landslide that damaged the famed Kyeik Than Lan Pagoda, the golden stupa of which towers above Mawlamyine, the capital of Mon State and Myanmar’s fourth-largest city. Media reports said that monks and residents we seen scrambling to rescue a Buddha statue from destruction, while novice monks cleared debris at the hilltop temple, which is believed to date to 875 CE.
“This is the worst flood in the state that I have ever seen,” said local resident Nyan Soe. (New Straits Times)
A Buddhist monastery located across the Salween River from the city was also reported to have been destroyed.
“It’s the first time that I experience floods in Mawlamyine in over 40 years,” said Mawlamyine resident Thein Hla. “Normally some quarters in Mawlamyine flood when the tide rises in the Salween River, but this time was not only about tide but also heavy rain, the drains in town are overflowing.” (Myanmar Times)
“There are over 1,000 people already moved to safety. They are being supported by civil society organisations and donors,” said Bo Bo Win, a spokesperson for a Mawlamyine rescue organisation. “Government support has not yet come. Food, clothes and other emergency relief goods are much needed.” (Myanmar Times)
The Myanmar Red Cross Society reported that some 8,000 households and nearly 5,000 hectares of agricultural land have been damaged across the country.
In Rakhine State in the west of Myanmar, 40 villages are reported to have been engulfed by flood waters in Minbya Township. Residents have sought shelter in Buddhist monasteries and in the homes of friends and relatives living on higher ground.
“Since the rains began, we have warned people to be careful about floods,” said Kyaw Thein Tun, the township’s deputy administrator. “We have formed an emergency operation center and have constant contact with village heads so we can tell them what they should do. We are getting ready supplies of drinking water, dry noodles, and waterproof sheets for the roofs of houses.” (Radio Free Asia)
Myanmar is a predominantly Theravada Buddhist country, with 80.1 per cent of the population of almost 48 million people identifying as Buddhists, according to 2010 data from the Washington, DC-based Pew Research Center. Christians, folk religions, and Muslims account for the bulk of the remainder. Buddhist monks, venerated throughout Burmese society, are believed to number around 500,000, with an estimated 75,000 nuns in the Southeast Asian country.
Floods, landslides kill 11, damage pagoda in Myanmar (Anadolu Agency)
Landslides, flash floods as monsoon batters southern Myanmar (New Straits Times)
Heavy Rains Pummel Myanmar, Causing Deadly Landslides And Destroying Homes (Radio Free Asia)
Worst flooding in 40 years hits Mon State, hundreds evacuated (Myanmar Times)
Landslides, flash floods as monsoon batters southern Myanmar (Phys.org)
Myanmar Red Cross Society