Myanmar landslide death toll hits 57

Residents look at an area affected by a landslide in Mutkyi, Myanmar, on Aug 12, 2019.
Residents look at an area affected by a landslide in Mutkyi, Myanmar, on Aug 12, 2019. PHOTO: AFP

BANGKOK - The death toll from a horrific landslide in southern Myanmar reached 57 on Monday (Aug 12) as rain continued to pound the region and submerge villages.

Myanmar's coastal Mon state was among the worst-hit areas, with houses and a school washed away.

In nearby Cambodia's coastal Preah Sihanouk province, floods opened up a sinkhole on a highway over the weekend and left three people dead, the Khmer Times reported.

In Vietnam's Phu Quoc island also in the Gulf of Thailand, locals are picking up the pieces from floods that caused over US$4 million worth of damage and forced its international airport to close briefly on Friday (Aug 9), according to local media outlet VN Express.

In Mon state's Paung township, where a mountainside loosened by continuous rainfall collapsed on Friday (Aug 9) and buried over two dozen homes, the death toll continued climbing.

"We are still searching for the victims. As of this morning, we have found 57 bodies in total," Mr Zaw Moe Aung, a general administrative officer in Paung township told The Straits Times.

According to Mr Zin Min Ko, a deputy director in the General Administrative Department in Mon state, rising waters have displaced 16,000 people.

Apart from giving immediate aid, the government plans to support survivors with both their mental and physical rehabilitation, he told The Straits Times.

 
 

According to a bulletin put out by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies on Monday, more than 134,000 people in Myanmar have been affected by flood since last month. Among them are 86,000 affected by an earlier round of flooding who have been able to return home.

As of Sunday (Aug 11), over 48,000 were sheltering in evacuation sites from floods in Ayeyarwaddy, Tanintharyi and Yangon regions, and Kayin, Bago, Mon states.

Locals are bracing for more wet - and possibly dangerous - weather.

Myanmar's Department of Meteorology and Hydrology warned on Monday (Aug 12) of a low-pressure area forming over the northwest Bay of Bengal, creating strong monsoon conditions over the Andaman Sea.

Mr Knut Ostby, the United Nations resident and humanitarian coordinator in Myanmar, told The Straits Times: "Our main worry is that we are still at the peak of the monsoon season, so the heavy rains are more than likely to continue. All the forecasts currently show more rain for the next few days across the region."

In Mon state, "the authorities have done an excellent job of moving people to evacuation sites, getting the injured to hospital, and they are providing food, cash for rice, and non-food items such as blankets, sleeping mats and other essentials", he said.

A UN-led inter-agency team will travel to Mon state on Tuesday (Aug 13) to assess how it can complement existing aid efforts, he said.

As clean water is essential, the UN Children's Fund is already providing jerry cans to store water, water purification supplies and hygiene kits, while the World Health Organisation is helping with water purification tablets, insecticide-treated mosquito nets, and snake venom treatment because floodwaters increase the risk of snakebites.

The World Food Programme is also preparing to help with ready-to-eat meals where might be lack of cooking facilities, he said.