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Tens of thousands of people are thought to be homeless after cyclone Giri made landfall on Burma’s eastern coast yesterday carrying 160mph winds.
The winds at landfall are stronger than those of 2008’s cyclone Nargis, Burma’s worst recorded natural disaster that eventually claimed some 140,000 lives. Reports say however that the cyclone has begun to ease as it moves northeast.
The area between Arakan state’s Kyaukphyu and Myebon towns have been worst hit by the winds and tidal surge, which state media in Burma warned on Friday could be as high as 3.7 meters.
A Kyaukphyu resident told DVB on Saturday afternoon that rain had eased and floodwaters slightly subsided, with the water level now standing at four feet.
“Now [people] are clearing out fallen trees [and debris] from the streets – the work may take about 15 days,” he said. “We heard a lot of houses – at least 1000 houses – were destroyed in Ashey Paing ward, Myitnardan ward, and Zeditaung ward in [Kyaukphyu] town. Around 10, 000 people are now taking shelter in monasteries.
“There were around 100 houses on the foot of the hill where Gangawtaw Pagoda [in Kyaukphyu] is located. We heard now there are about two or three houses left.”
He added that three bodies were found in a nearby village, while many remained missing in the surrounding area.
“The cyclone victims have missed about four meals [as of this evening],” he continued. “Businessmen in the town donated some rice but that wasn’t enough…some locals in town were handing out instant noodle packs and the [local Myanmar] Red Cross was doing some [relief] too.”
Another Kyaukphyu resident told Reuters that “Everything is gone. All the trees and lamp posts have fallen. Many buildings were damaged. Many people were left homeless”.
The trajectory of the cyclone crossed a number of low-lying islands in the Bay of Bengal, although the main urban areas were above the level of Burma’s southern Irrawaddy delta, which took the brunt of damage in 2008.