By Wa Lone
YANGON (Reuters) – Flooding across large parts of Myanmar has displaced more than 100,000 people, causing two deaths, while dramatic riverbank erosion has washed away a Buddhist pagoda, officials, residents and state media said on Monday.
Water levels have risen steadily since unrelenting monsoon rain began to lash the heart of the Southeast Asian country in early July, driving some people to higher land or seek shelter in Buddhist monasteries, a disaster relief official said.
“The situation is under control, but what happens now will depend on the weather,” Ko Ko Naing, director general of the ministry of social welfare, relief and resettlement, told Reuters.
“We are prepared to support the flood-hit areas because flooding happens every year.”
The government has provided food and other assistance to a total of 116,817 displaced people by Monday, as well as longer-term shelter for those outside settlements where flood waters are not expected to subside immediately, he said.
One man drowned in the floods in the Sagaing region and another was swept away while crossing a stream in Chin state, said a resettlement official in the ministry, Kay Thwe Win.
On Saturday, images of the Buddha’s footprint that draw pilgrims to a pagoda in Magway region were submerged by the rising waters, although no damage was immediately apparent, the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported.
A small dam also collapsed in the Bago region on Saturday, it said.
Video provided to Reuters by a Buddhist monk near Pakokku, 520 km (323 miles) north of the commercial hub of Yangon, showed a gold-leaf-covered pagoda slipping into the raging waters of the Ayeyarwady on Thursday.
The abbott at the pagoda, U Pyinnya Linkkara, said flooding was common in the area during the monsoon that runs from May to October, but this year’s floods caused alarming erosion.
Some riverside villages have been washed away entirely, he said.
“The villagers are now scared to live here,” he said. “The flooding has now decreased, but erosion continues.”
(Reporting by Wa Lone; Writing by Simon Lewis; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)