Red Cross responds to severe flooding in Myanmar

Published: 6 August 2013 13:42 CET

By Becky Webb in Myanmar, IFRC

Severe flooding in southern Myanmar has caused devastation in many towns and villages with reports of landslides, flash floods and river banks collapsing. Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated to safe spaces like monasteries and local stadiums. Temporary relief camps have also been set up to help respond to the disaster. 

“In Kayin State, one of the worst areas affected by the floods, over 33,000 people have been living in temporary relief camps and many more remain in their communities, in urgent need of help. Red Cross volunteers have been helping people evacuate, providing first aid to those injured and are now distributing relief items such as tarpaulins, blankets and shelter kits”, said U Maung Maung Khin, Head of Disaster Management Division at Myanmar Red Cross Society.

More than 100 Myanmar Red Cross volunteers have been responding since heavy monsoon rains swept through the country last week, displacing 37,000 people in Mon and Kayin States according to the authorities. Red Cross distributions over the weekend reached over 15,000 people in 11 Townships in Mon and Kayin States, and more emergency relief items are en route to the affected areas. With further rains predicted, Red Cross has also deployed trained technical staff and volunteers to support emergency relief and assessment teams.

“Red Cross distributions are ongoing in the affected areas and more relief stocks are on the way, but the situation on the ground continues to be challenging. Due to blocked roads and flood water pouring through many access routes, we are using ambulances and 4x4 vehicles to reach those in need” he said.

Communities on the Myanmar and Western Thailand border have also been badly affected, and the Myanmar town of Myawaddi initially was inaccessible to Red Cross volunteers.

“In hard to reach areas such as Myawaddi, we have worked closely with our partners at the The Thai Red Cross Society who have kindly donated critical relief items which have now been distributed to those in need”, Khin continued.

According to the Department of Meteorology and Hydrology, rainfall is likely to be above normal during the beginning of August in Upper Sagaing, Yangon, Ayeyawady and Taninthayi regions, and in Kachin, Rakhine, Kayin and Mon states. In recent months, storms and cyclones have already threatened vulnerable communities, many of which are still recovering from the devastating effects of Cyclone Giri in 2010.

Red Cross has been working with communities throughout the country to prepare for monsoon season. Volunteers have trained local residents in first aid, helped families identify safe evacuation routes and shared disaster preparedness advice and tips.

“We know from experience that monsoon season brings hardship to thousands of people each year, and the Red Cross works with local communities all year round to help them prepare. Thanks to the pre-positioned relief items and the thousands of Red Cross volunteers on standby throughout the country, we have been able to respond immediately. But the true scale of the emergency is only now becoming clear, and it is vital that this emergency support continues in the coming days and weeks”, concluded Khin.