Heavy rains in forecast set to worsen Myanmar flood crisis

YANGON: Heavy rains are forecast for the next few days in Myanmar, which could worsen already dire flooding in large parts of the country.

State newspapers reported Friday that President Thein Sein has urged Cabinet ministers to go out into the field to supervise flood relief operations. He told government natural disaster officials Thursday that some areas of the country have become inundated by heavy rains since July 16, destroying farmland, roads, railroads, bridges and houses. Roads from central to northern Myanmar have been especially badly affected.

The Relief and Resettlement Department estimates that between 67,000 and 110,000 people have been severely affected by flooding, particularly in the Sagaing region, and Kachin and Shan states, accounting for 21 deaths in July.

Other areas under threat include Rakhine state, where a former tropical storm was moving from neighboring Bangladesh. The situation in Rakhine is considered particularly dangerous, because more than 100,000 internally displaced people who fled their homes due to civil conflict in recent years live in poorly built and badly situated camps.

"Local authorities, the Union Government, the military, as well as the Myanmar Red Cross Society and local civil society organizations are responding to the situation, carrying out rescue operations and providing food, water, blankets, medical and other basic necessities to those affected," the U.N.'s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a statement Thursday.

Dr. Tun Lwin, a respected former state meteorologist, said he believed the government should have already declared a state of emergency, since people are trapped by water in many places. He said that that announcing emergencies and evacuating residents beforehand are part of disaster prevention.

"The rain will not stop yet," he said. "And many places are already flooded but it will not go down easily. This could be more dangerous."