Myanmar declares state of emergency after deadly floods

Media says Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state denied shelter and aid as Myanmar expects more rain

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Residents ride a boat on a flooded area as they transport aid for their village

Myanmar's president has declared a state of emergency and headed to four devastated rural regions on Saturday after heavy monsoon floods left 27 people dead and thousands of people displaced.

President Thein Sein declared a state of emergency in the regions of Chin, Magwe, Sagaing and Rakhine after a month of rain that ruined rice crops and prompted fears of dams collapsing.

As Cyclone Komen is expected to gain strength, Myanmar officials say they fear more rain will come in the coming weeks.

The BBC reported that thousands of people took refuge in monasteries but Rohingya Muslims were turned away from some shelters by security forces in western Rakhine state, where the water level reached as high as 4.5 metres and the mostly stateless minority already lives in harsh, apartheid-like conditions.

Aid groups are struggling to reach those affected by the floods in remote areas, AFP reported, adding that the states of Chin and Rakhine "have seen huge destruction and face difficulty returning to normal."

The United Nations announced it would send emergency teams to the country for aid assessment of 110,000 “severely affected” people.

"It's an emergency situation we have never faced before," Aung Zaw Oo, the local transport minister told Reuters. "We have only two motor boats for the rescue process. The government plans to send more."

Nearly 525,000 acres of farmland, almost the size of Luxembourg, have been affected by the floods and thousands of acres of paddy fields are damaged, according to officials. Bridges are damaged, cattle have been drowned and people are worried that dams in the area could collapse if more rain comes, Reuters reported.

Monsoon rains have also killed 39 people in India so far and the country’s government has moved 26,000 people to 227 relief camps across seven districts.

In eastern India, railway tracks and roads are submerged, bringing daily life to a halt on Saturday. Schools and offices were closed in the states of West Bengal and Odisha where cyclonic storm Komen is expected to make landfall.

In addition, at least 86 people have been killed in Pakistan after heavy rains triggered devastating floods across the country last week, leaving thousands of people homeless. Around 300,000 Pakistanis have been affected by the flooding.

Heavy rains and flash floods also killed 17 people in Vietnam and 11 others in Bangladesh, destroying roads, railways, bridges and houses.

TRTWorld and agencies