Cyclone strikes western Myanmar

Storm spins into country from the Bay of Bengal, as typhoon leaves at least seven dead in Taiwan.

Typhoon Megi lashed Taiwan before heading towards southern China [AFP]

A cyclone has hit the western coast of Myanmar from the Bay of Bengal, sparking fears that it could trigger a tidal surge of up to nearly four metres in some towns on the coast.

The storm was moving northeast through the country on Saturday, but was expected to weaken later in the day, a meteorological official said, adding that there was no news of any casualties.

State television said on Friday that Cyclone Giri had struck the coast near the town of Kyaukphyu, with winds reaching 160km. It said the storm could cause a tidal surge of up to 3.7 metres in some towns on the Bay of Bengal coast.

Coastal and delta regions in the country are often hit by strong storms. More than 130,000 people were killed or went missing when Cyclone Nargis struck the country’s Irrawaddy delta in May 2008.

Typhoon lashes Taiwan

Meanwhile in Taiwan, at least seven people have been killed and another 25 are missing after torrential rains triggered by typhoon Megi swept across the region.

Megi – the strongest northwest Pacific storm since 1990 – triggered a number of landslides as it lashed the island on Friday, including one that buried a temple in Suao, a coastal town in the northeastern Ilan county, leaving two nuns and another person dead.

More than 1,200mm of rainfall also caused a highway to collapse, stranding 400 travellers in 32 vehicles.

One Chinese tour guide and a Taiwanese driver were missing after their bus was hit by mudslides, although their 21 passengers managed to escape, said the National Fire Agency.

Contact was lost with another bus carrying 19 Chinese tourists and two Taiwanese, the agency added.

Elsewhere in the province, flash flooding submerged streets and a railway and forced dozens of schools to shut down.

Megi had already wreaked havoc in the Philippines, killing 36 people and destroying vast tracts of rice and corn crops.

China braces

In southern China, where Megi was said to be heading, flights were disrupted and ferry services cut as some 160,000 people were evacuated. The storm was expected to make landfall either late on Friday or early on Saturday in Fujian province.

The State Oceanic Administration issued a yellow storm surge warning, saying waters could exceed the danger levels, but meteorologists have now said that Megi’s power could be diminishing.

Megi was set to hit Fujian province as a category 1 typhoon, down from a 3, by Saturday and then fade to a tropical storm, forecasting service Tropical Storm Risk said.

“It’s showing signs of weakening,” Lee Tsz-cheung, a senior scientific officer with the Hong Kong Observatory, said. “We expect the intensity will gradually decrease until it makes landfall and decreases further.”

Tens of thousands of fishing boats in Fujian and neighbouring Guangdong province have been ordered back to port as China prepares for the storm.

“The storm surge could be so devastating that buildings, docks, villages and cities could be destroyed by it,” Xinhua, the official news agency, quoted Bai Yiping, a senior forecaster at the State Oceanic Administration, as saying.

The administration and other government agencies have ordered local authorities to reinforce seawalls and protect fishing facilities, Xinhua said.

Francis Markus, a spokesman for the International Federation of the Red Cross, told Al Jazeera that Megi could still gain in strength again before it reaches China.

“So it’s not time yet to relax vigilance and alert by any stretch of the imagination,” he said.

“I think the authorities have taken no chances and certainly the Red Cross Society of China has kind of stepped up preparations and vigilance right along that coast line to meet any eventuality.”

Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies

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