Heavy rains, landslides force refugee camp schools to close

Bad weather has closed schools and is making life miserable for residents in Umphiem Mai refugees camp that is located on the Thai side of the border with Burma.

Refugee camp residents say October has been a bad month for them. Heavy rain, strong winds and dense fog has made it hard for refugees living in Umphien Mai camp, in Phopra District on the Thai-Burma border.

Saw Htee Wah, the camp leader, said since the beginning of October, the non-stop rained, dense fogs and the strong, cold winds have made it hard for camp residents to get warm or have a good night’s sleep in the thin-bamboo-walled and thatched-leaf roofed huts.

Saw Htee Wah spoke to Karen News.

“It is raining day and night without stopping. In the morning, there is a thick, wet fog all over the camp and on top of that, the cold wind never stops blowing. At night, I can’t get a good sleep as it is very cold.”

Saw Htee Wah said the weather conditions were so bad that all the camp schools had to be closed for two days – on October 8 and 9 – due to the weather.

“With the continuous rain, there have been landslides. We discussed with the school teachers and made the decision to close all the schools for two days.”

The camp leader said the landslides, caused by the rains, destroyed three houses and part of a school building, but fortunately, there were no casualties.

Refugees in the camp say they are worried the cold and wet weather will cause sickness, especially among the vulnerable, the very young and very old.

Umpheim Mai refugee camp, located in the mountains, 87 km south of the Thai border town of Mae Sot in Tak province, was established in 1999 and is home to 16,919 people. Camp residents say they suffer from bad weather every year, but say the rain this year is the worst.

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