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Cyclone toll in Myanmar’s Rakhine state at least 41

CNA – The death toll in cyclone-hit villages of Myanmar’s Rakhine state rose to at least 41 yesterday, local leaders told AFP.

Cyclone Mocha made landfall between Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh and Myanmar’s Sittwe carrying winds of up to 195kph, the biggest storm to hit the Bay of Bengal in more than a decade.

The storm had largely passed by late on Sunday, sparing the refugee camps housing almost a million Rohingya in Bangladesh, where officials said there had been no deaths.

But many Rohingya in western Myanmar were killed when the cyclone struck at the weekend, according to residents, a relief group in the area and a local media report yesterday.

Two residents and a local non-governmental organisation operating in Rakhine State, Partners, told media the cyclone caused major destruction with scores of casualties.

Twenty-four people were killed in Khaung Doke Kar village tract northwest of Sittwe, a Rohingya camp leader told AFP, requesting anonymity due to fear of reprisals from the junta.

A local rides a motorbike past damaged buildings after Cyclone Mocha in Sittwe township, Rakhine State, Myanmar. PHOTO: AP

Several others were feared missing from the low-lying tract, home to Rohingya villages and IDP camps, he said.

AFP footage from the area showed wooden fishing boats smashed to splinters and piled up near the shore.

At least five people were killed in Myanmar and “some residents” were injured, the military junta said in an earlier statement, without giving details.

Over 860 houses and 14 hospitals or clinics had been damaged across the country, it said.

Communications were still patchy on Monday with Rakhine state’s capital Sittwe, home to some 150,000 people and which bore the brunt of the storm according to cyclone trackers.

Hundreds of people who sheltered on higher ground were returning to the city along a road littered with trees, pylons and power cables, AFP correspondents said.

In Sittwe, power pylons hung low over deserted streets and trees still standing were stripped of leaves.

At least five people had died in the city and around 25 had been injured, local rescue worker Ko Lin Lin told AFP.

It was not clear whether any of them were included in the death toll in the junta’s statement. Mocha made landfall on Sunday, bringing a storm surge and high winds that toppled a communications tower in Sittwe, according to images published on social media.

“I was in a monastery when the storm came,” one resident told AFP. “The prayer and dining halls collapsed. We had to move from this building and that building. Now roads are blocked as trees and pylons are fallen.”

Junta-affiliated media reported that the storm had put hundreds of base stations, which connect mobile phones to networks, out of action in Rakhine.

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