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Speedboats rescue 100 children in Burma floods

More than 100 children and 50 hospital patients were rescued by speedboat after floods devastated western Burma.

Landslides and floods triggered by torrential monsoon rains have killed at least 46 people in the south Asian country, state media said last night.

Thirty-four centimetres of rain on Tuesday caused landslides that destroyed hillside huts and killed about 28people in Minbya, Ponnagyun and Kyauktaw townships, The New Light of Myanmar newspaper said. Floods and landslides killed another 18 people in Maungtaw town, also in Rakhine state.

Rescue operations are now underway to find survivors and bodies buried under flattened houses and huts.

Yesterday the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) used speed boats to rescue 50 patients from a hospital in western Burma and 104 children from their submerged homes. The boats that normally take the organisation’s staff to work in cut-off villages on the rivers flowing into the Bay of Bengal.

"The national operators of our boats and their helpers have been enormously brave, especially in rescuing all 50 patients, 20 staff and some important medicine from rapidly rising flood waters in the Buthidaung Hospital," said Dinesh Shrestha, head of UNHCR's field office in Maungdaw.

The hospital patients were taken to a school for safety.

In just one day this week, more than 13 inches of rain fell in the Burmese town of Maungdaw, on the border with Bangladesh, the country's meteorological department said.

"Twenty-eight people were killed in Maungdaw Township while 18 were killed and four were injured in Buthidaung Township," MRTV television reported from Burma, which is also called Myanmar.

In the Maungdaw area, some 270 families were forced to leave their homes and had to seek shelter temporarily in two schools. Even if they could not return to their own homes because of high water, most families went back quickly to stay with relatives.

Many roads in the state are still under water, and some bridges have been washed away.

Across the Naf River, which divides Burma and Bangladesh, the UNHCR’s Craig Sanders said "this is the most devastating natural disaster the people have faced in recent years."

He said many of the flood victims were already living in poverty, with little or no savings. "This disaster will set them back even further," he said.

Local authorities and Red Cross officials have warned that the death toll could rise as some areas remain off-limit.

"We are having difficulties reaching some areas as the roads were damaged," a Red Cross official told Agence France Presse. 

Hayley attribution