A major effort was on its way to reach thousands of people trapped in their homes after a dam swollen by monsoon rains overflowed early Wednesday morning in central Myanmar, authorities said.
A wave of water flooded the rural plain in the Bago region after the spillway of the Swar Chaung dam, which regulates the release of water, collapsed due to heavy seasonal rain.
AFP reporters traveling with a rescue boat described how some people waded through the water to the chest to reach higher ground, while others huddled in trucks and tractors to get to safety.
Many others were trapped in their half-submerged homes while soldiers, policemen, firemen and volunteers worked at night to try to expel the residents.
Khin Myint, 45, told AFP about the frightening moment he hit the wave of water.
"The water came very quickly to our village and we did not have time to flee," she said, adding that she and her family could not escape from the top floor of her house because her elderly father was ill.
No casualties have yet been reported, but more than 12,600 people have taken refuge in some 30 temporary camps, said Phyu Lae Lae Tun, director of the Ministry of Social Welfare.
"There are more than 14,000 homes and some 63,000 people affected by the waters," he said.
The torrent also fractured part of a bridge on the Yangon-Mandalay highway linking the two largest cities in Myanmar.
Deputy Construction Minister Kyaw Linn told reporters that the bridge support towers were sinking.
"We will get divers off and check after the water levels recede," he said.
Army Chief Min Aung Hlaing, under increasing international pressure to confront international justice after a condemning UN report this week on the Rohingya crisis, came quickly to the scene on Wednesday morning.
"We have to work together," he said. "The spillway can not be controlled until the flow of water stops."
The flood comes just weeks after heavy monsoon rains hit Myanmar, causing flash floods that forced some 150,000 people to flee their homes.
The annual monsoon season in Southeast Asia runs from June to November.
The regional neighbor Laos was severely beaten last month when heavy rains caused the collapse of a dam. At least 35 people died, the scores disappeared and thousands more languished in the shelters.
Since then, the communist country suspended its hydroelectric strategy to become the "Asian battery" by damming rivers and selling electricity to its neighbors.