Earthquake-hit Tarlay and Mong Lin in eastern Shan State were last week still recovering from a strong earthquake on March 24 that left at least 74 dead and more than 3000 homeless.
The most pressing needs in affected areas remain water and shelter, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Human-itarian Affairs (OCHA), and further assessments were due to be carried out on March 31 and April 1.
The official death toll stands at 75, including one death in Thailand, and the Myanmar Red Cross Society (MRCS) estimated on March 30 that 3152 had been left homeless by the quake.
“Initial findings of a rapid assessment indicate that at least 18,000 people residing in 90 villages [have been] affected by the earthquake”, mostly in Tarlay and Mong Lin, a UNOCHA situation report issued on March 30 said.
Aid workers praised the speed of the government response, while UNOCHA said a “significant level of assistance has been provided by community-based organisations and the local communities in Kengtung and Tachileik”.
When The Myanmar Times arrived in Tarlay on March 27, the town’s bridge, which was severely damaged in the March 24 quake, was back in service and busy with vehicles carrying goods from local benefactors.
“We come from Wakaung village in Tachileik [township]. We wanted to offer as much food, medicine and drinking water as we could. Wakaung village was jolted by the earthquake but not damaged like this,” villager Daw Maple said on March 27. “We have never experienced an earthquake as strong as this. Even this morning we all ran away because of an aftershock while we were at church. We know how these people felt so we can empathise with them and want to come and donate as much as we can.”
A resident of Tarlay’s No 3 quarter said “large quantities” of food, such as rice and instant noodles, had been donated.
“There are also people offering drinking water. We were told not to drink the water from our wells until it had been chlorinated,” the resident said.
State health workers and Myanmar Red Cross Society (MRCS) members were busy last week chlorinating water sources and providing water purification tablets to residents. Those taking part in relief work said water from ponds, wells and springs had become discoloured as a result of the quake and was unsafe to drink.
“The number of people suffering from diarrhoea is rising in some villages. For now we have sufficient drinking water but it may run low later on. Most other patients are suffering from injuries [inflicted in the earthquake]. Some people are too scared to go into their homes again. We provide them with psychological counselling,” said a volunteer doctor from Kayuna, an organisation based in Kengtung.
“In Takyant village, Tarlay sub-township, the ground cracked and water gushed out from the crack. The water smelled like rotten eggs, there was so much sulphur in it. Organisations are planning to test the quality of the water,” a member from an international NGO said.
Relief teams were being flown in from around the country, an MRCS spokesperson said, adding that organisations were cooperating to avoid unnecessary delays and overlap in relief work.
– Translated by Thit Lwin