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Victims of the devastating floods in central Burma are seeking shelter at monasteries in the worst-hit town of Pakokku but locals there say aid is urgently required in light of the government’s apparent stalling over emergency relief efforts.
The death toll currently stands at 215, according to officials quoted by the Myanmar Times, although that could climb once missing persons are accounted for. Flash floods on 20 October swept away hundreds of homes in Magwe division, leaving thousands of people destitute.
Vice President Sai Mauk Kham visited Pakokku on Sunday last week, residents of the town have reported, although many claim that governmental assistance is lacking. The void has been filled by makeshift relief teams, supported by local businessmen who are reportedly contributing money to the effort.
“The vice president visited Pakokku… and companies in Rangoon and Mandalay are making donations,” said the abbot of a monastery in the town where victims are sheltering. “The Muslim Funeral Assistance Association has arrived [for relief assistance] and also [businessmen] in Pakokku are contributing.”
There are also fears that the hundreds of unregistered people living alongside the Shwechaung creek in Pakokku, the scene of flash floods that destroyed a heavy-duty bridge last week, have not been accounted for, and may push the death toll far higher.
In the township of Pauk, 50 miles west of Pakokku, 38 villages were affected by flooding, which swept away some 400 houses. Fifteen males and six females were killed, said a resident.
“Two school buildings, three monasteries and one community centre were also swept away,” he continued. “There are 2,381 flood refugees surviving on food handouts from nearby villages but no [official] relief effort has reached there yet.”
A DVB reporter in Pakokku said yesterday that local authorities had warned journalists not to photograph the damage, and had confiscated memory cards and demanded that photos were deleted.
Following Cyclone Nargis in 2008, a number of Burmese journalists were given lengthy prison sentences for documenting the grisly aftermath of Burma’s worst-recorded natural disaster, which showcased the government’s ineptitude at handling such crises.
Much of Southeast Asia has experienced an uncharacteristically long monsoon season this year. In neighbouring Thailand, Bangkok is bracing itself for weeks of chaos as the worst flooding in 50 years, which have already claimed more than 360 lives, moves closer to the city centre.