Tens of thousands flee homes in flood-hit Myanmar as landslide toll hits 59

Residents walk past an area affected by a landslide in Mutkyi village in Paung township. A fatal landslide in southeastern Mon state was followed by heavy flooding that reached the roofs of houses and treetops in nearby towns. (AFP)
Updated 12 August 2019

Tens of thousands flee homes in flood-hit Myanmar as landslide toll hits 59

  • Seasonal monsoon rains batter the country every year, but the recent deluge has submerged entire communities
  • There are currently more than 80,000 people sheltering at evacuation sites across the country

MAWLAMYINE, MYANMAR: Vast swathes of southeastern Myanmar lie under floodwaters that have already forced tens of thousands to flee their homes as the death toll from a massive landslide hit 59, firefighters said Monday.
Seasonal monsoon rains batter the country every year, but the recent deluge has submerged entire communities, with AFP drone footage showing only the tops of houses visible.
There are currently more than 80,000 people sheltering at evacuation sites across the country, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
In the town of Ye in Mon state, people scrambled to stay afloat as they tried to swim to safety through swirling, muddy waters.
Others fled to rooftops or to higher ground, calling out to rescue boats for help.
AFP reporters saw workers desperately trying to repair roads damaged or washed away by the floods.
Rescuers also found more victims three days after a deadly landslide flattened 27 homes in Mon’s Ye Pyar Kone village Friday morning.
“Another dead body was found at 16:27 bringing the death toll to 59,” the fire service posted Monday afternoon on Facebook, adding that search operations were still ongoing.
Recovery teams have worked round-the-clock over the weekend, hindered by continuing downpours and deep mud as the stench of decaying bodies worsened.
Vice President Henry Van Thio visited Mon and pledged more boats for flood relief efforts, the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar reported.
Bago, Tanintharyi, and Karen states and regions have also been badly hit, leaving emergency responders severely stretched.
Climate scientists in 2015 ranked Myanmar at the top of a global list of nations hardest hit by extreme weather.
That year more than 100 people died in floods that also displaced hundreds of thousands.


Climate activist Greta Thunberg is Time ‘person of the year’

Updated 13 min 33 sec ago

Climate activist Greta Thunberg is Time ‘person of the year’

NEW YORK: Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg was named Time’s “person of the year” Wednesday, becoming at age 16 the youngest person to whom the US magazine has given the title.
Thunberg emerged as the face of the youth climate movement after she started skipping school once a week to protest outside her country’s parliament. In the past year and a half, she has drawn large crowds at international conferences and demonstrations outside Sweden.
Some have welcomed Thunberg’s environmental activism, including her speeches challenging world leaders to do more to stop global warming. But others have criticized the teenager’s sometimes combative tone.
“For sounding the alarm about humanity’s predatory relationship with the only home we have, for bringing to a fragmented world a voice that transcends backgrounds and borders, for showing us all what it might look like when a new generation leads, Greta Thunberg is TIME’s 2019 Person of the Year,” the media franchise said Wednesday on its website.
Leaving a United Nations climate conference in Madrid where she addressed negotiators on Wednesday, Thunberg told The Associated Press she was “a bit surprised” by Time’s recognition, which she dedicated to all young activists.
Thunberg said she was hopeful the message of urgency she and other activists are communicating — that governments need to drastically increase their efforts to combat climate change — is finally getting through.
She said the experience of the past 15 months, going from solo-protester outside the Swedish parliament to addressing world leaders at the UN General Assembly, had changed her.
“I think life is much more meaningful now that I have something to do that has an impact,” Thunberg said in a phone interview.
She plans to head home to Sweden for some rest during the holidays. “If you don’t take breaks, you won’t be able to continue,” she said.
Last year’s Time winners included slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi; the staff of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, where five people were shot to death; Philippine journalist Maria Ressa; and two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo.