NEW DELHI: The people of Myanmar -- witness to decades of ethnic strife, military rule and amongst the lowest human development indexices -- are used to making do with very little. Currently, the people of Myanmar are battling an intense flood that has claimed over 55 lives, with the country’s President President Thein Sein asking people in the badly affected Ayeyarwady delta region to evacuate. Hundreds of thousands of people are stranded and hungry with more than 150,000 needing “immediate food assistance,” says the UN.

The flood is especially devastating given Myanmar’s limited resources, where boats -- a basic rescue necessity -- are in short supply. This is what makes a certain Myanmar ex-sailor’s invention pure genuis and crucially important.

Aung Set Paing, a 41-year old ex sailor from Myanmar’s flood affected delta, has invented a boat made from trash. The boat, with a working motor, is built using 500 empty containers of Pocari Sweat, a Gatorade-like sports drink from Japan.

Paing, who now works at a at a beverage distributor, says that the boat cost $100 to make. It uses “grille work and electrical cables” and can carry two people. “When I realised I could build this boat I decided to do it,” he told The Myanmar Times. “I worked as a sailor in my parents’ company till I was 25 years old. But I never thought my knowledge of boats would come in useful like this.”

“It’s safe and can be fitted with an outboard motor for use in calm water. But then it will carry only two people,” he said. “It was really needed. We saved people. Mostly we carried fried noodles and foodstuff.”

The boat has since been donated to aid workers to ferry around food supplies. Today I donated this boat to an aid group in Pyay. They really liked it.”

Paing, meanwhile, is showing off the boat in action -- as he should be -- on his Facebook page.

With the floods claiming more and more lives in Myanmar, do-it-yourself boats may save thousands of lives. As photos emerge of other such efforts at assembling boats, the UN warns of a “double catastrophe” as Myanmar, racked by poverty and flailing infrastructure, continues to be pounded by flood waters.