More than 240 people killed in cyclone

May 4, 2008 (AFP)-More than 240 people were killed when cyclone Nargis tore through military-run Burma this weekend, an information ministry official said Sunday.

"According to the latest information we have, altogether 19 people were killed in Yangon division and then about 222 people killed in Ayeyawaddy division," the official told AFP.

Nargis made landfall around the mouth of the Irrawaddy river, about 220 kilometres (137 miles) southwest of Rangoon, late Friday before hitting the country’s economic hub of Rangoon.

The cyclone ripped down power lines, battered buildings and left uprooted trees and other debris scattered across the streets of Rangoon.

Five central and southern regions and states — Rangoon, Irrawaddy, Bago, Mon and Karen — have been declared disaster areas, the official said.

Police and army have been deployed throughout the worst hits areas to start the clean-up operation.

The information ministry official said that seven empty boats had sunk in the country’s main port, while Rangoon’s international airport was closed until further notice with flights diverted to the city of Mandalay.

The storm cut most electricity and telecommunications in the nation just a week before a crucial referendum on its new constitution, the first polling in Burma since general elections in 1990.

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