Monsoon rains caused a central Myanmar dam to overflow early on Wednesday, inundating about 100 villages and blocking the country’s biggest highway, a government official said.
No casualties have been reported but thousands were displaced and took shelter in temporary camps.
Swar Chaung dam’s spillway structure, which regulates the release of water from the levee, broke due to heavy seasonal rainfall in Bago region, authorities said.
The water gushed into the rural flatland region as people fled their homes on foot, clutching bags of belongings, according to footage of the aftermath.
The weight of the floodwater also fractured part of a bridge on the Yangon-Mandalay highway, which serves as an important artery between Myanmar’s two biggest cities.
“We don’t have exact data about the number of victims but the water has hit villages where more than 50,000 people live,” Ministry of Social Welfare director Phyu Lae Lae Tun said.
She added that a total of 12,000 households in some 100 villages are affected by the floods.
Army chief Min Aung Hlaing, under mounting international pressure to face international justice following a damning UN report this week on the Rohingya crisis, was quick to arrive at the scene.
“We have to work together,” he told local media. “The spillway cannot be controlled currently and the water will not stop.”
Camps for the displaced were being set up, while other people were taking refuge in monasteries, Phyu lae Lae Tun said.
“But we don’t have the details of how many people are displaced or how many people are still living in their respective villages,” Ministry of Social Welfare director added.
The torrent comes just weeks after heavy monsoon rains pummelled Myanmar, causing widespread flash floods that forced some 150,000 people to flee their homes.