A 6.8 earthquake hit Myanmar last Thursday, exactly one week ago. Its epicenter was just north of Tachileik, Shan State, near the Thai/Laos border, about 40 kilometers from where I currently live in Mae Sai. It’s reported that 74 Burmese people have been killed. A Thai women residing in Mae Sai also perished as a wall collapsed on her as she was trying to protect her nephew. Many homes, buildings and temples have been destroyed and many Burmese people remain without shelter and the basic necessities of food and water.
Several aftershocks were felt over the following days and a couple of earthquakes unleashed in Northern Thailand. The tremors were felt as far away as Bangkok and Hanoi, Vietnam. Myanmar state radio announced that 111 people were injured. It also reported that 390 houses, 14 Buddhist monasteries, and 9 government buildings were destroyed.
Significant damage was reported in the villages around Tachileik, Mae Sai’s sister city. Damage included massive fissures in the roadways and collapsed bridges, thereby complicating relief efforts. We’ve been told that World Vision is the only aid relief on the ground in Myanmar. They’ve reported massive damage to water tanks and wells making water scarce. We’re told 95,000 people live near the quake’s epicenter but we lack accurate information to know the extent of those affected. We believe the Burmese government – a corrupt military regime – is failing in its efforts to help the people of Myanmar. We also believe aid agencies are being turned away as are journalists so it’s difficult to ascertain what is going on exactly. Myanmar’s government frowns upon giving unauthorized information to the media. World Vision said it will provide 250 households with basic food and water if the Burmese government allows them to.
My mother and I purchased a shopping cart of water and dry food and delivered it to my Burmese friend Mina who is 16-years-old and works in Mae Sai. Her brother was able to retrieve the supplies and get them to the border. We hope he got through the police checkpoints without the goods being confiscated. There have been reports of police confiscating supplies coming in from Thailand only to turn around and sell them for profit. This comes as no surprise really but we need better follow-up to ensure our efforts are helping the people in need. Should you want to make a donation toward the Burmese earthquake relief effort, please visit DEPDC/GMS’s PayPal link. You can also see more images of the catastrophe here.
To quote a recent newspaper article I read, “Most of rural Myanmar, one of Asia’s poorest countries, is underdeveloped, with poor communications and other infrastructure, and minimal rescue and relief capacity. The country’s military government is also usually reluctant to release information about disasters because it is already sensitive to any criticism.”
Please rest assured that everyone at DEPDC/GMS including the international volunteers and the people we know in the community are fine. A little shaken up and concerned about future earthquakes, but for now everyone is doing okay. What’s most important now is that we network with our youth leaders and friends in Myanmar to see how we can best be of help to those in need.