Trucks are on standby to try to rescue more than 1,000 civilians trapped in two villages in northern Myanmar where fierce fighting broke out between the Myanmar army and rebels.

Gam Aung, a resident in Lone Khin, a town near the fighting in Kachin state, says many people, including children, are seeking refuge in Buddhist monasteries and Christian churches on Saturday. There are no injuries reported.

Dawng Hka, a spokesman for the ethnic insurgents, says soldiers have so far blocked efforts to ferry them to safety.

There was no immediate comment from the government.

The violence comes as President Thein Sein's nominally civilian government struggles to end decades-long civil wars in resource-rich border regions before his term expires at the year's end.