Burma declares five regions disaster areas after cyclone

May 3, 2008 (DVB) Rangoon was struck by cyclone Nargis early this morning, leaving many areas without electricity or communication links and traffic at a standstill.

The cyclone, with wind speeds ranging from 120 to 150 mph, hit Rangoon this morning, causing widespread damage, according to meteorological officials. However, reports are difficult to confirm as there is no power or telephone links.

According to a Reuter news report, Rangoon’s Mingaladon Airport has been closed, all incoming flights are being diverted to Mandalay, and all departures have been cancelled.

Furthermore, road traffic is almost non-existent in Rangoon city, Internet services are down, and MRTV and Rangoon City Radio are also off the air.

Flood waters are reported to have entered the city and the Meteorological Department has warned that the water level could surge up to 12 feet.

Although meteorological officials fear lives may be lost in the cyclone, this has not yet been confirmed.

A Rangoon resident that DVB was able to contact by phone said authorities have been going through the street with loudspeakers warning people to stay indoors because of reports the cyclone will strike Rangoon again.

The cyclone wreaked havoc in downtown Rangoon, blowing the roofs off many buildings, destroying satellite dishes, severing electric cables and flattening electric poles, the resident said.

According to a resident of Bassein, Hainggyi Island bore the brunt of Cyclone Nargis.

Several people drowned in the surging floods while others were trapped in their devastated homes, according to the resident.

Although no details are available yet, there have been reports that the coastal areas of Irrawaddy Division, which were also seriously hit during the last Tsunami, were struck hard by the cyclone.

The Meteorological Department could not be reached by telephone, but a report broadcast on MRTV said five regions had been designated natural disaster areas.

"Cyclone Nargis, which entered Burma on 2 May 2008, is still passing through Irrawaddy, Rangoon, and Pegu Divisions and Mon and Karen States," the statement said.

"In order to rapidly and effectively carry out relief and rehabilitation efforts at the national level in a coordinated manner, the following regions are hereby designated as "Natural Disaster Areas": (a) Irrawaddy Division, (b) Rangoon Division, (c) Pegu Division, (d) Mon State, and (e) Karen State."

The announcement was authorised by lieutenant general Thiha Thura Tin Aung Myint Oo, secretary of the State Peace and Development Council."

DVB correspondent Aye Nai was able to contact a resident of South Dagon township, Rangoon, to ask her about the situation there.

"In South Dagon, all the zinc sheets have been blown away and the area is flooded," she said.

"All the people had to flee from their homes because they could not stay there. They had to leave their things behind," she continued.

"Their roofs and zinc sidings had all been blown away. The water was everywhere as well."

The resident said the whole area was now filled with water, and that the cyclone had begun at around midnight and was still ongoing. "People from the villages [in Irrawaddy division] arrived yesterday and said all rice crops in their villages had been destroyed," she said.

Rail services between Rangoon and Prome have been disrupted and commuters are stranded because the bus service on the Rangoon-Prome expressway has been blocked by trees brought down by the cyclone.

A commuter at Letpadan Railway Station said there was no transport between the cities.

"In Hmawbi which is closer to Rangoon, a tree has fallen down on a car and is blocking the way. So, cars from Prome side are having difficulty negotiating the fallen tree and those travelling from Rangoon cannot use the road at all," she said.

"This is happening on the Prome Road and causing difficulties for the commuters. No cars are leaving Rangoon and a lot of passengers who want to go to Prome are waiting at the Letpadan Bus Depot," she continued. "There is no rail service either. This is because rail lines have been destroyed in Rangoon and trains cannot leave."

In Mon State, the edge of Cyclone Nargis swept Moulmein since last night and people had to stay indoors because of the strong winds.

A resident of Moulmein, speaking at around 5pm local time, said the situation in Bilin and Kyaikto could be worse because they are right at the centre of the cyclone.

"Yes, the cyclone is here and we dare not go outside. The winds can be felt inside our home and trees in our compound have fallen. The winds are still blowing," he said. "Bilin and Kyaikto are, however, at the centre of the cyclone and they are about to be affected."

The Moulmein resident said he was not able to leave his home because of the cyclone.

"How bad is the wind speed here? I dare not go out. I stay in my compound only," he said.

"Of course, the lights are out. The phone line, however, is good. But I cannot call Rangoon or any other place. I heard the boats along Strand Road in Rangoon had sunk". But he said he thought the situation could be becoming more settled in Rangoon.

"A phone call from Rangoon came in earlier and I was informed that a helicopter has been flying around the city," he said.

"If a helicopter could fly, it means the situation in Rangoon has returned to normal."

In Irrawaddy Division, no serious damage was reported in the urban areas but the farms in the rural areas are now under water.

Some lives were also lost, according to a resident of Bassein, who was interviewed at around 3pm local time.

"The sky was dark and there was no wind for about two days. The rains started yesterday evening and gradually became stronger," he said.

"There was slight damage to some homes and branches were broken. No major incident occurred in Bassein city. Rural parts of Bassein and areas around Hainggyi Island, however, were affected."

The Bassein resident said some people had to flee when their homes were blown away.

"I heard there were a number of deaths in Sanda Village. Serious damage and floods were also reported in Khongyi, Taunggale, Tetkathaung, and other villages".

The resident said the floods had also destroyed rice crops.

"I believe the cyclone crossed Hainggyi in the evening of 1 May and Bassein on the evening of 2 May. I heard Ngaputaw suffered serious damage also," he said. "Homes were destroyed, roofs were blown away, trees were uprooted, and the area was inundated. Ngaputaw is well known for its summer rice crops."

"Urban areas like Bassein did not suffer as much."

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