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Rescuers battle floodwaters as death toll of Myanmar landslide rises to 59

China Daily | Updated: 2019-08-13 09:44
Rescue work is carried out after monsoon landslide in Paung Township, Mon state, Myanmar, on Saturday. WU ANG/XINHUA

MAWLAMYINE, Myanmar - Myanmar troops and emergency responders scrambled to provide aid in flood-hit parts of the country on Sunday after rising waters forced residents to flee by boat and a landslide killed at least 59 people.

Every year monsoon rains hammer Myanmar and other countries across Southeast Asia, submerging homes, displacing residents and triggering landslides.

But this season's deluge has tested disaster response after a fatal landslide on Friday in southeastern Mon state was followed by heavy flooding that reached the roofs of houses and treetops in nearby towns.

"Another dead body was found at 16:27 bringing the death toll to 59," the fire service posted on Monday afternoon on Facebook, adding that search operations were still ongoing.

Hundreds of soldiers, firefighters and local rescue workers were still pulling bodies and vehicles out of the muddy wreckage of Paung township from Sunday.

The top official in Mon state, Aye Zan, had visited the site and villagers who were evacuated to a relief camp to escape floods following torrential rains.

Heavy rains pounded other parts of Mon, Karen and Kachin states, flooding roads and destroying bridges that crumbled under the weight of the downpour.

But the bulk of the relief effort is focused on hard-hit Mon, which sits on the coast of the Andaman Sea.

About two-thirds of the state's Ye township remained flooded, an administrator said, as drone footage showed only the tops of houses, tree branches and satellite dishes poking above the waters.

Families realized they had to leave in the early hours on Sunday, packing possessions into boats, rowing toward higher ground or swimming away.

Than Htay, a 40-year-old from Ye town, said that water rose to their waists around 2 am, she and her family members started shouting for help.

The heavy rains muffled their pleas but a boat happened to pass by and gave them a ride.

"That's why we survived. We thought we were dead," she said.

Another resident said this year's flooding was the worst they had experienced.

Floodwaters have submerged more than 4,000 houses in the state and displaced more than 25,000 residents who have sought shelter in monasteries and pagodas, according to state-owned Global New Light of Myanmar.

Myanmar's Vice-President Henry Van Thio visited landslide survivors in a Paung township village on Saturday and "spoke of his sorrow" while promising relief, the paper reported.

The search for victims continued later on Sunday though the rain has made the process more difficult.

"We are still working. We will continue searching in the coming days as well," Paung township administrator Zaw Moe Aung said.


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