Myanmar’s Flooding Death Toll Rises, Aung San Suu Kyi Visits Stricken Areas
RANGOON – The number of dead from flooding in Myanmar has climbed from 27 to 46, with more than now more than 200,000 people homeless, the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement said Monday.
The flooding has affected residents in 11 of Myanmar’s 14 states and divisions, the ministry said. In addition to the damage to housing and farmland, infrastructure has been badly hit, with roads and rail lines cut in many areas and telecommunication links broken.
Over the weekend, President Thein Sein visited the areas in central Myanmar hit hardest by flooding from almost continuous rains since mid-July. On Friday, he declared four areas of the country disaster zones, but only after he had come under a barrage of criticism in the press and on social media for failing to quickly mobilize relief.
Some coastal areas took a double beating late last week when a tropical storm whipped through, posing a particular danger to badly built and poorly located camps in Rakhine state for more than 100,000 people displaced in the past few years by ethnic conflicts.
President Thein Sein, meeting Sunday with flood victims in northwestern Sagaing division, said waters were slowly receding and that he hoped people could soon leave evacuation shelters, many of which are located at Buddhist monasteries. He told state television that the government plans to begin reconstruction once evacuated people return to their homes.
Ms. Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy party is expected to pose a tough challenge to Thein Sein’s ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party in the coming polls, on Saturday named its nationwide list of candidates. Ms. Suu Kyi will run for re-election to Parliament but is barred from becoming president under a constitution that was drafted under military rule.
A referendum on the constitution was held in 2008 as Myanmar was hit by Cyclone Nargis, which killed about 140,000 people. The military government’s inability to mount a useful relief effort, and initial reluctance to accept foreign assistance, did much to discredit its ability to run the country.
Ms. Suu Kyi on Monday used a small wooden boat to travel the flooded areas in Bago township, 65 miles (100 kilometers) northeast of Yangon. She visited several shelters for flood victims, where on behalf of a foundation named for her late mother, a former diplomat, she handed over donations of rice and drinking water.
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