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Evacuees return home as storm warning is lifted

Village residents take shelter in Labutta ahead of an incoming tropical storm on 22 October 2016. (Photo: DVB)

Over 3,000 local villagers waiting out a storm in the Irrawaddy Delta town of Labutta were sent home on Wednesday as the government’s Department of Meteorology and Hydrology lifted a warning it issued earlier in the week.

Residents from around 15 villages in Labutta Township were moved to shelters in the town two days ago amid warnings of a major storm approaching the coast. The regional government said the villagers were sent home on 26 October after the storm in the Bay of Bengal changed course and started heading northwest along the Burmese coast toward Bangladesh.

Hla Shaung, the administrator of the Labutta Township government, said that officials arranged buses and ferry boats for the villagers to return home.

“We arranged three buses for the locals returning to inland villages and seven ferry boats for those who live close to the sea and local waterways, and the government is also covering travel expenses for those who went back via commercial transportation services,” said Hla Shaung.

He said around 1,000 people left Labutta on Wednesday morning.

Similarly, local villagers taking shelter in the town of Haigyi Island, the administrative center of Ngapudaw Township, also returned to their homes after the storm warning was lifted on Tuesday.

“They started returning to their villages in the morning and by the afternoon all of them had left the town,” said the town’s administrator Thet Lwin Oo.

In total 16,311 locals from 11 village-tracts around Haigyi Island sought shelter in the town amid warnings on Sunday that the area was likely to be hit hard by the storm.

A red alert that was issued on the weekend was downgraded to a yellow alert by late Monday. However, heavy rains brought by the storm continue to threaten Burma’s west coast with flooding, according to the Department of Meteorology and Hydrology.