Cyclone Mocha cuts communications in Myanmar, kills three

The full extent of the damage from Cyclone Mocha in Myanmar is not yet known.

The full extent of the damage from Cyclone Mocha in Myanmar is not yet known. Photo: AAP

A powerful tropical cyclone has flooded streets, blown off roofs and severed communications in western Myanmar after thousands of people had crammed into monasteries, schools and other sturdy shelters in one of Asia’s least developed countries.

At least three deaths were reported in Myanmar, and several injuries were reported in neighbouring Bangladesh, which was spared the predicted direct hit on Sunday.

Cyclone Mocha made landfall in Myanmar’s Rakhine state near Sittwe township in the afternoon with winds blowing up to 209 kilometres per hour, Myanmar’s Meteorological Department said.

By Monday morning, it was downgraded from its severe status and was steadily weakening over land, according to the India Meteorological Department.

The extent of the damage was not immediately clear. High winds crumpled phone towers during the day, cutting off communications. And independent information is hard to gather under Myanmar’s military-run government.

In videos collected by local media before communications were lost, deep water raced through streets while wind lashed trees and pulled boards off roofs. Rakhine-based media reported streets were flooded and people were trapped in homes in low-lying areas.

Myanmar state television reported the military government was preparing to send food, medicine and medical personnel to the storm-hit area

At least three deaths were reported in Myanmar.

A rescue team from eastern Shan state said on Facebook that they had recovered the bodies of a couple who were buried when a landslide 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.

Mocha largely spared the Bangladeshi city of Cox’s Bazar, which initially had been in the storm’s predicted path. Authorities had evacuated hundreds of thousands of people before the cyclone veered east.

A feared storm surge from the Bay of Bengal did not materialise because the cyclone started crossing Bangladesh’s coast at low tide, Dhaka-based Jamuna TV station reported.

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.

Roxy Mathew Koll, a climate scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology in Pune city, said cyclones in the Bay of Bengal were becoming more intense more quickly, in part because of climate change.

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