Myanmar braces for more flooding as international aid flows in

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 07, 2015 10:58 AM

YANGON (Reuters) - International aid poured into Myanmar on Friday following weeks of heavy monsoon flooding that aid agencies say is set to extend further across the low-lying southern delta region.

An estimated 88 people have died and some 330,000 have been displaced so far in the flooding that began in late June. Last week the floods intensified to engulf vast tracts of the country after a lashing from the remnants of Cyclone Komen.

"We're very concerned about secondary flooding that is likely going to happen in the delta region (as more water flows downstream)," said Pierre Peron, spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The World Food Programme, the U.N. Agency that provides food assistance, said the delta region would experience flooding in three to five days.

The southwest area where the Ayeyarwady and other rivers fork into a delta leading to the sea is home to about 6.2 million people, 12 percent of Myanmar's population.

Myanmar's president urged people to leave the region on Thursday. Only roofs in some villages remained visible above the water.

The government has declared four areas of the country disaster zones and has appealed for international assistance.

China dispatched a convoy of trucks with relief supplies from Yunnan province across the border into eastern Myanmar on Friday, its embassy in Yangon said in a statement.

India's embassy said New Delhi had sent military aircraft to deliver supplies to Kalay in the west and Mandalay in central Myanmar in a mission that began on Thursday. The European Union and United States also pledged funds for the relief effort.

Myanmar's appeal for help marks a change from 2008, when the then-military government shunned most outside aid after a cyclone killed 130,000 people, mostly in the same delta region.

"We are at the stage right now where assessment teams and aid are starting to get to some of the most hard to reach areas," said Peron.

Waters were receding in some of the hardest-hit and remote areas in the northwestern Rakhine State, but drinking water and fuel are in short supply there, Khine Pyay Soe of the regional Arakan National Party told Reuters.

"There are growing concerns about the possible outbreak of diseases due to the lack of drinking water and sanitation," he said.

Over a million acres of rice fields have been flooded and crops destroyed on more than 150,000 acres, the agriculture ministry said.

The government has delayed the reconvening of parliament, initially scheduled for Aug. 10, due to the floods. That will be the final session before an historic election set for Nov. 8 - the first free vote for 25 years.

There are no plans to delay the ballot because of the floods, Myanmar Election Commission chairman Tin Aye said in comments reported by the state-run Kyemon newspaper.

(Reporting by Tim McLaughlin, Hnin Yadana Zaw and Aung Hla Tun in YANGON; Writing by Simon Webb; Editing by Gareth Jones)