As many as 85 villages were flooded in Myanmar after a dam failed, unleashing waters that blocked a major highway and forced more than 63,000 people from their homes, a state-run newspaper said on Thursday.
The disaster spotlights safety concerns about dams in Southeast Asia after last month’s collapse of a hydroelectric dam in neighboring Laos that displaced thousands of people and killed at least 27.
Firefighters, troops and officials launched a desperate rescue effort on Wednesday after the spillway of an irrigation dam burst at Swar creek in central Myanmar, sending a torrent of water through villages and the nearby towns of Swar and Yedashe.
Flooding at the dam site has receded, Zaw Lwin Tun, the deputy director general of the Irrigation and Water Utilization Management Department, told the Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper.
“The collapse is caused by the damaged spillway,” the paper quoted him as saying. “The dam is in good condition.”
The ruptured spillway had flooded 85 villages, affecting more than 63,000 people and submerging a section of highway, the paper added.
Days earlier, authorities had given the all-clear to the dam, which can hold 216,350 acre-feet of water, despite residents’ concerns about overspill, state-run media have said.
Traffic between Myanmar’s major cities of Yangon and Mandalay and the capital, Naypyitaw, was disrupted after the flooding damaged a bridge on the highway linking them.