Myanmar cyclone kills 27, thousands displaced

The category 4 storm hit on Friday; news from the isolationist government trickles in

Published October 25, 2010 5:28PM (EDT)

A cyclone that struck Myanmar's western coast late last week killed at least 27 people, damaging thousands of buildings and displacing tens of thousands of people, state television reported Monday.

Cyclone Giri arrived from the Bay of Bengal on Friday evening with winds of up to 110 mph (180 kph), lashing several coastal areas of western Rakhine state that are home to poor families who live mostly in bamboo huts. It later moved into central Myanmar.

Monday's report was the first announcement from the government on casualties and damage from the category 4 storm. The military government tightly controls information and also delayed reporting on -- and asking for help with -- the devastating Cyclone Nargis, which struck Myanmar in 2008, killing 130,000 people. The junta was widely criticized for what were called inadequate preparations and a slow response to the disaster.

This time, the government credited its preparation and warning system with saving lives, saying the casualty toll was low because it had managed to help 53,000 villagers evacuate before the storm.

In one coastal town in the country's center, Kyaukphyu, three camps set up by the Myanmar Red Cross and the Social Welfare Ministry were housing more than 5,000 people, said Andrew Kirkwood, the resident representative of aid group Save the Children.

A resident from Kyaukphyu, Chit Chit, who was contacted by phone, said that many homes had their roofs blown off and that many areas remained flooded. She said communications were cut over the weekend but had been restored.

Other nearby towns also saw most of the buildings flattened, Kirkwood said. In one, only seven homes out of several hundred remained standing.

The television report said that, in all, 4,000 houses, monasteries and government buildings were destroyed in Rakhine state. It said 27 people had been killed and 15 were missing.

By Associated Press

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