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Irrawaddy Delta braces for storm

Lull before the storm: Burma's southwestern coast on Saturday, 22 October 2016. (PHOTO: DVB)

Villages have been evacuated, and schools in Burma’s Irrawaddy Delta ordered to close until at least Tuesday, 25 October, amid fears of an incoming tropical storm.

“We have instructed schools in Labutta and Myaungmya districts, as well as Haigyi Island in Pathein [Bassein] to close,” said Irrawaddy regional government secretary Myo Min Tun.

More than a thousand local villagers around Labutta have been moved to shelters in the main town after the Department of Meteorology and Hydrology issued a ‘code red’ weather warning. Authorities are currently acting to evacuate villages in the cyclone’s path as it approaches the Burmese coastline from the Bay of Bengal.

Labutta lies just 15 kilometres from the coast at the south-western point of the country. The town was the main target when Cyclone Nargis devastated the delta region in 2008, leaving 138,000 people dead in its wake, the worst disaster in Burma’s recorded history.

The Irrawaddy regional government on Sunday said preparations are in place as delta residents brace themselves for the possibility of ferocious winds, massive tidal waves and flooding.

Myo Min Tun, secretary of the Irrawaddy regional government, said relief camps and shelters have been set up at local Buddhist monasteries, and emergency rescue teams are on standby.

“We ordered emergency preparations in Haigyi Island town, Labutta, Pyinsalu and Moulmein Island town where the storm is heading,” he said.

“Meanwhile, we are broadcasting regular updates about the storm, and setting up shelters at Buddhist monasteries and other sturdy buildings.”

Labutta MP Tun Hla said, “Littoral villages have now been evacuated and people escorted to storm shelters. They’ve also been provided food rations.”