HINTHADA (Myanmar) • Myanmar's President Thein Sein yesterday called for the evacuation of low-lying areas as the Irrawaddy river threatened to breach embankments, leaving villagers with just sandbags to hold back flood waters that have hit much of the country.
Severe monsoon floods have cut through swathes of South Asia and South-east Asia in recent weeks, leaving hundreds of people dead, and displacing millions.
Twelve of Myanmar's 14 regions have been hit. Officials said 74 people are dead and more than 330,000 affected. Many have been forced to take refuge in monasteries and makeshift shelters after their homes were inundated.
Relief agencies said floods had receded in some northern and western areas, allowing supplies of food and clean water to trickle in but landslides were still a threat. The centre and south are now bracing themselves for floods as water drains through the Irrawaddy delta.
In a radio broadcast early yesterday, Mr Thein Sein said areas near the Irrawaddy were at risk as the river rises above the danger level. "As we cannot prevent natural disasters, I urge fellow citizens to move to safer places... It's the best way," he said.
In Hinthada township, the army yesterday helped residents prepare for floods by securing their belongings inside homes, and reinforcing embankments with sandbags. Villages on the other side of the barriers were already submerged up to their rooftops.
Boat driver Than Naing said this year's monsoon was the worst in living memory, as he helped ferry people across an expanse of dark water that has swallowed padi fields. "I have never seen anything like this. Every year it floods a bit but not like this," he told Agence France-Presse.
International aid efforts have buttressed the response of the army and local communities, after a rare appeal by the government for outside help. But thousands are still feared stranded in remote Chin state after days of rain caused flash floods and landslides that swept away homes, roads and bridges.
Further south, aid agencies warned that drinking water is running out in parts of Rakhine state, which was hit by Cyclone Komen last week. The floods have heaped misery on the state, which already has tens of thousands of mainly Muslim Rohingya in refugee camps after waves of sectarian violence.