Myanmar: water and shelter urgently needed

31 March, 2011
Mong Lin, Myanmar: a monastery collapsed after the earthquake. Credit: OCHA
Mong Lin, Myanmar: a monastery collapsed after the earthquake. Credit: OCHA

On 24 March 2011, an earthquake of magnitude 6.8 on the Richter Scale and 10 km depth struck the southern parts of Shan State in the East of the Union of Myanmar (population: 3,870,921) — approximately 300 miles southeast of Mandalay seismological observatory. It was recorded at 20:29:30 hrs Myanmar Standard Time (01:55:12 PM UTC). The epicentre is estimated to be located in the southern part of Shan State at the following coordinates: 20.705°N, 99.949°E which is close to the borders between Myanmar, Thailand (South) and Laos (East). Six aftershocks have been reported from affected areas. The risk of landslides remains high.

According to initial information from partners, villages in Tarlay Sub-Township (located in Tachileik Township), including Mong Lin (West), Mong Lin (East) and Naryaung Village Tracts, are among the most affected, with significant infrastructure damage. Tachileik Township is located near the border with Thailand and Laos—47 km from the epicentre, 1,292 km North East of Yangon and 940 km East of the capital city of Naw Pyi Taw.

It is hard to assess the true scale of the disaster given the region's mountainous terrain, linguistic barriers and security concerns. The latest official number of casualties currently stands at 74 deaths and 125 injuries. On 30 March, the local authorities in Tarlay have estimated that 702 houses were damaged. The Myanmar Red Cross Society (MRCS) reports 3,152 people are homeless.

Initial findings of the rapid assessment carried out by UNICEF and MRCS, in close coordination with Noble Compassionate Volunteer (NCV) and World Vision Myanmar, indicate that at least 18,000 people residing in 90 villages have been moderately or severely affected. In the 50 most severely affected villages, more than 50 per cent of all building have either been damaged or estroyed. In the 40 remaining villages, more than 30 per cent of all buildings have been damaged or destroyed.

A significant level of assistance has been provided by Community-Based Organisations (CBOs) and the local communities in Kengtung and Tachileik. Local authorities have reviewed the situation and identified immediate needs in water and shelter. Other remaining needs will be identified through the coordinated assessment, which will take place on 31 March and 1 April.