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Death toll jumps in southern Myanmar landslide

August 11, 2019

A landslide in a village in Myanmar has left at least 53 people dead, authorities said. Monsoon rains have hammered Myanmar and other countries in the region, flooding vast swathes of land and displacing residents.

Rescuers carry children from a boat as floodwaters submerged areas
Image: AFP/Y.A. Thu

At least 53 people were killed by a landslide that struck a village in Myanmar's southern Mon state on Friday, the Myanmar Fire Services Department announced on Sunday. 

The landslide was triggered by torrential rain the previous night. It swept away dozens of homes in the village of The Phyu Gon, located at the foot of a mountain in Mon state's Paung township.

Hundreds of soldiers, firefighters and rescue workers were still pulling bodies and vehicles out of the muddy rubble of the township on Sunday.

Officials say rescue efforts will continue through the coming week.

Residents use an improvised raft as floodwaters submerge homes
Every year, monsoon rains hammer Myanmar, submerging homes, displacing residents and triggering landslidesImage: AFP/S.A. Main

A tough challenge

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. 

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.

Rescue workers take part in a search operation to locate landslide victims
Hundreds of soldiers, firefighters and rescue workers are working hard to clear the rubble and search for the missingImage: AFP/Y.A. Thu

Families realized they had to leave in the early hours Sunday, packing possessions into boats, rowing towards higher ground or swimming away. Than Htay, a 40-year-old from Ye town, told the Agence France-Presse news agency that water rose to their waists in the middle of the night and 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.

Hard-hit by extreme weather

On Saturday, Myanmar Vice President Henry Van Thio visited the village to deliver cash assistance to the victims' families.

"Efforts will be made toward preventing the recurrence of such disasters, people will be informed and preventive exercises will be conducted regularly," he told the families.

Workers repair a portion of a damaged road
Highways and railroads between Mon state and Yangon were closed over the weekend because of the floodsImage: AFP/Y.A. Thu

The vice president also visited other towns and villages across Mon state, where more than 4,000 homes have been flooded. He also visited monasteries that are serving as makeshift relocation camps for an estimated 25,000 people displaced by the floods.

Highways and railroads between Mon state and Yangon, Myanmar's main city, were closed over the weekend because of the floods. The military have announced plans to deliver emergency supplies by helicopter.

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

sri/jlw (dpa, AFP)

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