Thursday, 21 November 2019

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Child presumed dead after flood hits ward of northwestern Kalaymyo

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Floods in the northwestern Burmese division of Sagaing resulting from torrential rains that lasted six hours early on Tuesday swept away a grade-one pupil on her way to school and inundated at least 50 homes.

Six-year-old Ram Kip Zing slipped into a flooded mountain creek that flows east from the Chin Hills while walking to No. 13 State Primary School, in Taungphila Ward, northwest of Kalaymyo in Sagaing Division. She is the daughter of Kawl Lian Sum and Har Hlei Thiam but searchers have failed to find her body.

“Taungphila creek had burst its banks and the road to her school was under eight inches of water,” Maung Hla, who lives near the creek and saw what happened, told Mizzima. “She slipped on the road near the creek … and no one could do anything to save her as the current dragged her away. It all happened so quickly.”

Catholic young people had been searching for Ram Kip Zing but hope for her survival was slim, a member of the search party said.

“We searched all along the creek until we reached the outskirts of Kalaymyo but we couldn’t find her. We’ll call off the search if we can’t find her this evening,” Za Lian, a member of the local Catholic Church told Mizzima.

“We shall hold a funeral service for her at our church … Her parents are satisfied with our efforts”, Za Lian added.

About 50 houses were inundated in Taungphila Ward, between Taungphila and Taungtha creeks, waterways that run into the Myittha River, a tributary of the Chindwin. The creeks overflowed after heavy rain fell incessantly between midnight and about 6 a.m. on Tuesday, residents said.

“My home is five houses away from [one of] the creeks. I’d collected firewood for the whole year but all of it was lost in the rain. The water level reached the window pane of some low houses,” flood victim Byet Lian Thang told Mizzima.

“If it had happened at night, the death toll would have been much higher, but the flooding took effect in the early morning so we could flee our houses to the safety of high ground. Everything we’d stored under our houses has been lost,” Byet Lian Thang said.

Local authorities failed to launch any relief operations, provide temporary housing or send aid, forcing flood victims to take refuge in the homes of relatives and friends until the waters receded. The residents returned yesterday to clean the mud and debris from their homes.

State Primary School No. 13, where Ram Kip Zing had studied, and another primary school north of Taungtha creek were closed during the flood and reopened today.

“We could not open our schools in knee-deep water. There was a high risk of the children drowning but we reopened … today. But … we’re not letting the students go outside classrooms because the land is too muddy,” a teacher from No. 13 school told Mizzima. “We ordered our students to wash their feet before entering.”

Residents have blamed earthworks by the local authority for causing the flooding, saying that the creeks had not overflowed during the last monsoonal rains, which too were often heavy and incessant, a resident said.

Taungphila Ward Peace and Development Council chairman Khua Tin Thang had blocked a storm-water drain beside the creek and another similar drainage ditch was diverted, which the resident said was behind the disaster.

“If the creek is windy and the water level gets high, it will overflow. He [Khua Tin Thang] blocked the drain because he said it was troublesome to build bridges over the drainage ditch. And another drain was diverted to Taunghatha creek,” the villager said, requesting anonymity. “In this way, our village was inundated. We’ve never seen anything like it, even when it’s rained for a week. The drains would fill up but would never overflow.”

Last October, a resident of Kalaymyo was swept away and died in floods that also swamped more than 2,000 houses, and forced thousands of residents to flee to higher ground.


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