Myanmar cyclone leaves at least one dead, thousands affected

A cyclone that pounded western Myanmar killed at least one person, an official said as news of the havoc wrought by the storm began to emerge.

Last Updated: Oct 23, 2010, 22:14 PM IST

Yangon: A cyclone that pounded western
Myanmar killed at least one person, an official said today, as
news of the havoc wrought by the storm began to emerge, with
tens of thousands needing help.

Cyclone Giri raged onto the coast of Rakhine state with
winds of up to 193 kms per hour yesterday, but was said to
have since slowed to around 80 kph, state media said.

An official who did not want to be named confirmed one
fatality had so far been reported.

"A woman in Minpyar town was killed when a tree collapsed
during the cyclone and we have not heard of anything apart
from this case," he said.

The coastal town of Kyaukphyu was the worst-hit, with the
power cut off and the sea wall partly destroyed.

A Red Cross worker in Yangon estimated that about 70 per
cent of Kyaukphyu town was destroyed, with about 60,000 people
in the district needing assistance, although the organisation
had not heard of any deaths.

"Fishermen and people there have had time to move to
safer places as disaster measures were already in place", he
said.

"Our office in Kyaukphyu was destroyed by a falling
tree... we have had problems getting transport and the latest
data but are trying to reach the affected areas as soon as
possible."

A resident in Sittwe, on the coast in western Rakhine,
said winds of up to 128 kph tore through the area today
evening, destroying houses on the outskirts of the town but
leaving larger buildings standing.

"The authorities warned us with loudspeakers yesterday to
prepare for the cyclone, so people had time to move safer
places", he said.

The Meteorology office yesterday predicted sea levels
could swell by as much as 3.7 meters, but the Sittwe resident
said there had been no tidal wave in his area.

After hitting the coast, the storm headed northeast
through the central part of the country and is forecast to
"abate into a moderate storm", the New Light of Myanmar
newspaper said, quoting the Department of Meteorology and
Hydrology.

In Yangon, people from Rakhine clubbed together to raise
money to buy supplies for those in need.

"We were able to contact our families this morning and
some people from Yangon will go there to try and help them. We
will buy rice, drinking water and other necessary things," a
member of the Rakhine community said.

Myanmar is frequently hit by tropical storms and in 2008
was battered by Cyclone Nargis, which left 138,000 people dead
or missing, mostly in the southwest delta region.

PTI