Three dead as Cyclone Mocha makes landfall in Myanmar
Thousands of people are hunkering down and seeking shelter from a powerful storm that has slammed into the coast of Myanmar, tearing the roofs off buildings and killing at least three people.
The centre of Cyclone Mocha made landfall on Sunday afternoon in Myanmar's Rakhine state near Sittwe township wind speeds up to 209 kilometres per hour, Myanmar's Meteorological Department said.
Myanmar's military information office said the storm had damaged houses, electrical transformers, mobile phone towers, boats and lampposts in Sittwe, Kyaukpyu, and Gwa townships. It said the storm also tore roofs off of sport buildings on the Coco Islands, about 425 kilometres southwest of the country's largest city, Yangon.
Rakhine-based media reported streets and basements of the houses in Sittwe's low-lying areas were flooded. Much of the area is cut off from telephone and internet service after high winds crumpled mobile phone towers.
More than 4000 of Sittwe's 300,000 residents were evacuated to other cities and more than 20,000 people were sheltering in sturdy buildings such as monasteries, pagodas and schools located on the city's highlands, said Tin Nyein Oo, who is volunteering in shelters in Sittwe.
Lin Lin, the chairman of a local charitable foundation, said earlier there was not enough food in the shelters in Sittwe after more people arrived than expected.
Titon Mitra, the United Nations Development Program representative in Myanmar, tweeted: "Mocha has made landfall. Two million people at risk. Damage and losses are expected to be extensive. We are ready to respond and will need unhindered access to all affected communities."
On Sunday morning, several deaths caused by wind and rain were reported in Myanmar. A rescue team from the country's eastern Shan state announced on its Facebook page they had recovered the bodies of a couple who were buried when a landslide caused by heavy rain hit their house in Tachileik township. Local media reported a man was crushed to death when a banyan tree fell on him in Pyin Oo Lwin township in the central Mandalay Region.
Authorities in the Bangladeshi city of Cox's Bazar, which lay in the storm's predicted path, said earlier that they had evacuated some 1.27 million people, but by early afternoon it appeared that the storm would mostly miss the country as it veered east, said Azizur Rahman, director of the Bangladesh Meteorological Department in Dhaka.
"The level of risk has reduced to a great extent in our Bangladesh," he told reporters.
Strong winds accompanied by rains continued in the Saint Martin's Island in the Bay of Bengal in the afternoon, but feared tidal surges did not take place because the cyclone started crossing Bangladesh coast at low tide, Dhaka-based Jamuna TV station reported.
UN agencies and aid workers in Bangladesh had prepositioned tons of dry food and dozens of ambulances with mobile medical teams in sprawling refugee camps that house more than one million Rohingya who fled persecution in Myanmar.
In May 2008, Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar with a storm surge that devastated populated areas around the Irrawaddy River Delta. At least 138,000 people died and tens of thousands of homes and other buildings were washed away.
Cyclones, giant storms similar to those known as hurricanes or typhoons in other parts of the world, are among the world's most devastating natural disasters, especially when they hit densely populated coastal regions.