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Villagers fight back as rat hordes swarm Irrawaddy Delta’s Ngapudaw

Dead rats are piling up in Irrawaddy Division’s Ngapudaw Township as locals try to control infestations in a handful of villages. (Photo: Ministry of Information)

Residents of some villages in Irrawaddy Division’s Ngapudaw Township say they are beating back a recent infestation of rats, with hundreds of the vermin dispatched by local brigades of amateur exterminators this week.

“This is the fourth day since the rats swarmed into the village,” said Khin Win Than, a resident of Zee Chai village, one of the affected settlements. “People in the village are killing the rats but there are still a lot of them remaining here. Now, the rats are swarming into other villages as well.”

Currently, Zee Chai and four other villages in the township are dealing with the rat hordes.

“The rats came yesterday morning. We shot and killed them the whole day; about 800 rats were killed by 8:30pm,” said Mya Zaw, a local from Kyauk Chaung village. “The rats stay in the trees like flocks of birds. Now, villagers are going to use other methods to kill the rats, such as smoking them out.”

Members of the township police force and staffers from the local Department of Health have joined in the fight, spraying pesticides in villages where the rodents have swarmed.

“A plague of rats with white bellies were found in Zee Chai village, Haigyi Island, since 3 June. On 5 June, more rats were spotted in Kan Chai village and Kyauk Chaung village. In total, 1,667 rats were destroyed and systematically buried underground,” the Ministry of Information said in a statement.

“A plague of rats has happened twice [previously in Burma]; once when bamboo forests produced flowers and seeds, making abundant food for the rats, and another time was when packs of rats swarmed into the fields out of starvation after Cyclone Nargis,” Tun Lwin, Burma’s best-known meteorologist, wrote in a post to his Facebook page.

“[Impending] earthquakes may trigger such a phenomenon, or there could be other reasons behind it,” he added.