Regional authorities in Arakan State and Magwe Division say they have been busy laying preparations for any damage and destruction as a tropical storm crossed Burma’s western coastline last night.
With wind speeds of between 50 and 60mph, Cyclone Maarutha was reported on Sunday night to have edged inland from the Bay of Bengal and was on course to pass between Sittwe and Thandwe [Sandoway].
This morning at 6:30, Burma’s meteorology department announced that the storm had weakened as it crossed littoral and inland areas. No casualties have been reported.
Tin Maung Swe, the secretary of the Arakan State government, said regional authorities had been preparing for the past three to four days for the storm.
“Over the past three to four days, we have taken all the necessary measures and relocated those in danger,” he said. “We have also sent in first aid materials, medicines and boats. Ministers have spread out to all areas in the cyclone’s path to respond quickly.”
The National Disaster Preparedness Central Committee said that it has sent in emergency materials for up to 2,000 families.
In Magwe, the regional government has asked religious visitors and shopkeepers at the Shwe Sattaw pagoda to evacuate as the site is unsafe.
Magwe Social Minister Dr. Khin Maung Aye said, “We are requesting pilgrims to leave and asking shopkeepers to close down.”
On Saturday, the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement issued a warning to tourists to exercise care if heading to beach resorts on the western coast. “There may be high waves in Rakhine [Arakan] and the [Irrawaddy] delta; therefore visitors to beaches should be careful,” said the announcement. “There is a possibility of flash floods. Those living or visiting towns along the routes of streams and rivers should pay particular attention.”
The beach resort of Ngapali, near Sittwe, is especially popular during the New Year festivities and is renowned as a Mecca for foreign tourists and expats in Burma during holiday seasons and long weekends.
Meanwhile, the US-based website weather.com has warned of landslides and mudslides in Burma in the days ahead. It predicted five inches (13cm) of rainfall between Sunday and Tuesday in affected areas.