Tens of thousands flee homes in flood-hit Myanmar as landslide toll hits 59

MAWLAMYINE, Myanmar (AFP) – Vast swathes of southeastern Myanmar lie under floodwaters that have already forced tens of thousands to flee their homes as the death toll from a massive landslide hit 59, firefighters said yesterday.

Seasonal monsoon rains batter the country every year, but the recent deluge has submerged entire communities, with AFP drone footage showing only the tops of houses visible.

There are currently more than 80,000 people sheltering at evacuation sites across the country, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

In the town of Ye in Mon state, people scrambled to stay afloat as they tried to swim to safety through swirling, muddy waters.

Others fled to rooftops or to higher ground, calling out to rescue boats for help.

AFP reporters saw workers desperately trying to repair roads damaged or washed away by the floods.

Photo released by Myanmar Fire Service Department shows members of a Myanmar rescue team working at a landslide-hit area in Paung township, Mon State, Myanmar. – AP
Displaced residents take shelter in a temporary evacuation centre as floodwaters submerged areas of the Ye township in Mon State. – AFP

Rescuers also found more victims three days after a deadly landslide flattened 27 homes in Mon’s Ye Pyar Kone village last Friday.

“Another dead body was found at 4.27pm bringing the death toll to 59,” the fire service posted yesterday afternoon on Facebook, adding that search operations were still ongoing.

Recovery teams have worked round-the-clock over last weekend, hindered by continuing downpours and deep mud as the stench of decaying bodies worsened.

Vice President Henry Van Thio visited Mon and pledged more boats for flood relief efforts, the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar reported.

Bago, Tanintharyi, and Karen states and regions have also been badly hit, leaving emergency responders severely stretched.

Climate scientists in 2015 ranked Myanmar at the top of a global list of nations hardest hit by extreme weather.

That year, more than 100 people died in floods that also displaced hundreds of thousands.