Hlaingbwe devastated by floods – getting aid is a lottery

Residents of Hlaingbwe Town are still fighting floodwaters that swamped central Karen State last month. Town people say flooding caused by heavy rains broke the banks of the Hlaingbwe River in late June, putting many residential areas under water. Government officials say the amount of aid allocated for victims is not enough.

A civil servant working in Hlaingbwe town told to Karen News that the number of flood refugees was unknown but the assistance provided such as rice, cooking oil, blanket, soaps, and towers was not enough, and in some cases, aid had to distribute by the use of a lottery system.

A resident explained the extent of the flooding to Karen News.

“The water is slowly decreasing, but we are still under water. Some people have been able to return to their homes, but some houses in low-lying areas are still flooded. The water was in the houses.

Local people say they expect the Hlaingbwe River to flood in the wet season but this year because of the heavy rains the town has been hit hard.

Daw Ma Kyi, a flood victim, told Karen News that this year has been the worst and all farms near the river and many parts of the town are under water.

“We know there will be flooding. But we never expected this. The worst flood was on June 26 and 27. The water reached up to our floor [about 2 metres] and houses in almost all sections in the town were affected. The only places not badly flooded were the mosque and the monastery compounds, and some areas in the town center. I had to stay in the mosque compound for two days. Some people took refuge at the high school. It took four days for the water to drop…and that was only by a couple of feet.”

Saw Min Aung Lin, a newly elected State member of parliament, said government officials, members of Pao-Swaw Democratic Party and individual donors delivered some help and food to flood victims temporarily sheltering in the mosque and school.

“We provided some assistance. We distributed 22 sacks of rice, cooking oil, clothes and other goods. The Plao-Swaw Democratic Party members distributed 14 sacks of rice and the Union Solidarity and Development Party [the governing party] gave two sacks of rice.”

A market teashop owner said the high school has managed to reopen, but shopkeepers in the main market are unable to open their businesses and the middle school is still closed.

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