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Cyclone slams Myanmar; Thai flood deaths rise
YANGON (Reuters) - A cyclone that hit the west coast of Myanmar has caused widespread damage, a local resident said on Saturday, while a meteorological official said it was expected to weaken as it moved northeast through the country.
There was no word from the authorities on damage or deaths. Unusually heavy rain has also caused the worst flooding in decades in neighboring Thailand over the past two weeks, so far killing at least 25 people, officials said.
Burmese state television said on Friday that Cyclone Giri had struck the coast near the western town of Kyaukphyu, with winds reaching 160 km per hour (100 miles per hour), and could trigger a tidal surge of up to 12 feet in some towns on the Bay of Bengal coast.
Telephone contact with the area was interrupted overnight after the cyclone hit but a resident of Kyaukphyu contacted by phone on Saturday morning said the area had suffered badly.
"Everything is gone. All the trees and lamp posts have fallen. Many buildings were damaged. Many people were left homeless," Ko Ba Phyu told Reuters.
He said he had heard that the area between Kyaukphyu and Myebon, 35 miles to its north, had been worst affected by the winds and tidal surge.
"We haven't got any information about casualties. It's too early to know the exact size of damage due to poor telecommunications," he added.
Coastal and delta regions in the Southeast Asian country are often hit by strong storms. More than 130,000 people were killed or went missing when Cyclone Nargis struck the Irrawaddy delta in May 2008.
An official at the Department of Meteorology and Hydrology described Giri on Saturday as an inland storm but had no details on the impact on coastal areas.
The Mandalay area northeast of the coast where Giri made landfall has suffered torrential rain in the past few weeks and residents contacted by Reuters said there had been flash floods recently.
There are a number of dams and hydro power projects in the region and some residents have expressed concern about the impact of the heavy rain on the dams.
Residents in Bagan, an ancient city and popular tourist spot about 430 miles north of the commercial capital, Yangon, told Reuters on Saturday that two main roads linking Bagan to Mandalay had been damaged by torrential rain caused by Giri.
DEATHS IN THAILAND
In Thailand, at least 25 people had been killed since October 10, the Department of Disaster Prevention and Migitation said on Saturday, raising the toll from 17 on Friday. The state-run Narenthorn Emergency Medical Center put the death toll at 32.
At least 29 provinces have been affected, mainly in the northeast and center, covering about a quarter of the country. Flooding has swamped thousands of acres of farmland and affected over a million people. Thousands were evacuated to higher ground.
Bangkok was on flood alert at the weekend, with excess water from reservoirs to its north likely to flow into the Chao Phraya river running through the capital at a time of high tides, possibly forcing it to overflow its banks.
(Additional reporting by Ambika Ahuja and Khettiya Jittapong in Bangkok; Writing by Alan Raybould; editing by Miral Fahmy)
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