Many areas in the Bago Province of Myanmar have been inundated by heavy rains that lasted several days. The streets have turned into “rivers” and villagers have no choice but to place their belongings on higher grounds. Many villagers wade their way around the flood-stricken city with rolled up trousers, and their faces are filled with despair.
The rainy season of Myanmar falls between June to September each year. Hence, it is often hit by floods caused by continued heavy rains during this season. In early August, flood disasters have been reported in Bago Province, and Mon and Karen states of the country.
As Tzu Chi volunteers had just distributed rice seeds to impoverished farmers in Bago Province early this year, they were concerned about the wellbeing of the latter. Upon learning about the severe flood situation, the volunteers contacted a businessman and Tzu Chi supporter, Lin Ming Qing. They asked him to help contact the local officials to request for information, such as the number of people affected by the disaster and the aid materials they needed, with the hope of starting their relief operations as soon as possible.
Flooded areas are mostly located in the slums
It took the volunteers four hours of driving to reach the flooded area on 9th August for a disaster assessment. Tzu Chi volunteer Li Jin Lan said, "The reason why we are conducting this assessment is because the press has continually reported about food shortages in the disaster zone."
Lin Ming Qing, who tagged along with the disaster assessment team, said, “Disaster relief cannot wait. The flood victims were already without food on the day of the flood disaster, and Tzu Chi is able to provide timely assistance to them. The officials from the Ministry of Agriculture were very moved when Tzu Chi distributed rice seeds to the farmers earlier this year. They couldn’t believe it when Tzu Chi informed them that they are going to distribute aid to the flood victims again…... even the local officials are happy to assist us."
The volunteers’ disaster assessment trip was led by Nyi Nyi Htwe, a local official. He took the volunteers to the disaster zone and explained to them: "The shelter has been operating for three days as the flood water has risen above the safe level…… Most of the people living in the low-lying areas are impoverished residents. These villagers do odd jobs for a livelihood, and they cannot return to work after the flood disaster struck."
At the disaster zone, the entire village is inundated. Some of the village folks have moved to the shelter, while those who are living on higher grounds can remain in their homes. After learning about the disaster situation, Tzu Chi volunteer Wang Meng Lan shared, “The flooding began on the 3rd of August. It is already the 9th today and yet the water has not subsided."
The volunteers also saw people who refused to stay at the shelter in the temple even though the legs of their beds were soaked in water. Many of the residents said that the greatest challenge was that the flood water has not receded, which prevented them from working to earn a living.
After obtaining information of the disaster situation and gaining an understanding of the needs of the flood victims, the volunteers promptly began purchasing the required aid materials.
Local officials join Tzu Chi in rendering help to flood victims
The manager of the Agricultural Department of Nyaunglebin City, Thet Thet Nyunt, assisted the volunteers in purchasing some 1,000 packets of rice to be distributed to the flood victims.
“I contacted the rice mill after receiving the call from Brother Lin Ming Qing, and I have chosen the favourite rice of the locals,” she said.
Besides buying rice, Thet Thet Nyunt also helped Tzu Chi to buy vegetable oil and other aid materials locally within a short period of time. She added, "Since Tzu Chi is so sincere in doing charity work, my staff and I should try our best to render help. We want to quickly distribute the rice and oil to the disaster victims so that they can have something to eat.”
The local policemen and army also chipped in and assisted with purchasing and delivering aid materials. With the help and support of the local personnel, Tzu Chi distributed aid supplies and relief money to some 275 affected households totaling 1,150 people, in the hope of temporarily resolving their difficulties.