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Myanmar: Heavy rains hamper shelter construction

Source(s):  Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)

Yangon - Heavy rains pounding earthquake-struck Southern Shan State continue to hinder efforts to rebuild the homes of quake survivors, agencies say.

Of the 837 households destroyed by the 6.8 magnitude earthquake in late March, 88 families in 24 severely affected villages are still living out of tarpaulin tents as they await materials to rebuild, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) told IRIN.

The earthquake left more than 3,000 homeless, 74 dead and 125 injured.

According to the government's Relief and Resettlement department, the most affected villages are in the urban area of Tarlay Sub-Township, including West Mong Linn, East Mong Linn and Naryaung.

The government, UN agencies, individual donors and local and international NGOs have been assisting in the reconstruction process. However, as the rainy season - mid-May to mid-September - is now at its peak, agencies say delivering building materials to the distribution sites from the township warehouses is a problem.

Shan State typically receives 1m-1.52m of rain a year.

"It has been difficult to transport timber and construction materials due to heavy rains in Tarlay," Akbar Usmani, acting resident representative of UNDP, said.

Although the motorway to Tarlay Sub-Township from Tarchileik - a town neighbouring Thailand - is in good condition, roads to the severely affected villages are narrow and winding and require great skill to navigate under normal circumstances. Passage is even more challenging with the added hazards of slippery surfaces and trucks loaded with heavy supplies.

In addition, suppliers are not able to find construction materials locally due to logging and deforestation.

"Good quality hardwood timber is becoming scarce in the area," Usmani said.

Due to aftershocks up until three weeks ago, there are still many traumatized quake-survivors who dare not stay in their repaired houses. Instead, they sleep in the tents or in the well-constructed houses of their relatives, said Aung Naing, manager for World Vision's Shan earthquake response.

"They are afraid to face the same disaster one more time," Aung Naing added.

Building guidelines

Because houses destroyed in the strong earthquake were poorly constructed and not designed to be earthquake-resistant, UNDP and the UN Human Settlements Programme, UN-Habitat, plan to provide construction designs and technical assistance, including training to locals, according to UN officials.

"We have a plan to provide technical assistance and guidelines soon," said San Tun Aung, programme officer with UN-Habitat.

Myanmar rests on one of the world's two main earthquake belts, and has experienced 17 major earthquakes in the past 172 years.

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  • Publication date 26 Jul 2011

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