Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Ayeyarwady River waters breach danger mark, flooding Amarapura villages

The waters of the Ayeyarwady River in Mandalay have surpassed the danger mark, with floodwaters yesterday inundating more than half the villages in Amarapura township and forcing closure of a major university outside Myanmar’s second-largest city.

Floodwaters inundate a village near the bridge across the Ayeyarwady River linking Mandalay and Sagaing. Photo: Phyo Wai Kyaw / The Myanmar TimesFloodwaters inundate a village near the bridge across the Ayeyarwady River linking Mandalay and Sagaing. Photo: Phyo Wai Kyaw / The Myanmar Times

The Ayeyarwady River’s warning level in Mandalay is set at 1260 centimetres (41.3 feet), and waters reached 1325cm yesterday, according to U Win Than Hlaing, an official from the city’s No 1 water sentry post.

“The [Mandalay] City Development Committee is now placing sand bags,” he said. “Authorities from the fire services and ward administrations are watching over it day and night. Potential places where water can enter have been piled with sand bags.”

Although the river has not yet burst its banks in Mandalay’s riverside wards, villages in Amarapura as well as settlements near the bridge connecting Mandalay and Sagaing are grappling with floodwaters.

“Of a total 24 villages in Amarapura township, water has entered 16 villages at the moment,” U Than Aung, a member of the local administration for the Shwe Kyat Yat group of villages, said yesterday. “More than 1200 households and over 5000 people are already suffering from the floods. Medicine, food and aid are needed for their health.”

The river level yesterday clocked in just 57cm below a record-setting 2004 measurement of 1382cm, which was the highest recorded since the 1970s, U Than Aung added.

The Ayeyarwady River at Mandalay has been rising since last month, and the water level stood at 1248cm on July 28.

In addition to the closure of Yadanapon University in Amarapura township yesterday, motorists struggled to navigate the road that leads to the bridge linking Mandalay and Sagaing. Some families displaced by the high waters have taken shelter in makeshift roadside huts.

Yadanapon University officials said they have not decided when the campus will reopen.

The Department of Meteorology and Hydrology (DMH) has warned residents of low-lying areas in Mandalay to be on alert for potential flooding.

Further downstream on the Ayeyarwady River, water levels were also recorded above their warning marks at Myinmu township in Sagaing Region; Minbu and Pakokku townships in Magwe Region; and Hinthada and Zalun townships in Ayeyarwady Region.

The DMH has issued an identical warning for similarly situated low-lying populations living along the Chindwin and Nga Won rivers, both of which have also seen waters rise past their danger marks at points.

More than 700 households were evacuated last week due to flooding along the swollen Chindwin River in Sagaing Region. At least seven townships in the region – Homalin, Paungbyin, Mawlaik, Kani, Mingin, Kalaywa and Monywa – recorded water levels above their warning marks yesterday, according to the DMH.

The Nga Won River, an offshoot of the Ayeyarwady River in Ayeyarwady Region, surpassed its danger mark by 1.5 feet at Ngathaingchaung in Yegyi township, with waters expected to rise an additional foot over the next four days, the DMH said yesterday.

The department said heavy monsoon rains are expected across much of the country in the coming days due to the persistence of a low-pressure area over the Bay of Bengal.

Coastal regions could see strong waves brought on by wind gusts of up to 45 miles per hour (72 kilometres per hour).

Additional reporting by Myint Kay Thi, translation by Kyawt Darly Lin