May 3, 2008 / 6:08 AM / 12 years ago

Cyclone slams into main Myanmar city, airport shut

YANGON, May 3 (Reuters) - A tropical cyclone slammed into Myanmar’s main city on Saturday, ripping off roofs, felling trees and power lines and forcing the military authorities to close the airport.

The electricity supply — hit-and-miss at the best of times in one of Asia’s poorest countries — failed after Cyclone Nargis, packing winds of up to 120 mph, first started to lash the former capital on Friday evening.

There were no reports of deaths, although meteorological officials in the former Burma said the cyclone could trigger a storm surge of up to 12 feet (3.5 metres) in coastal areas.

State-run MRTV and Yangon City Radio were off the air, as were the normally shaky Internet services.

Buses and trains were not operating due to extensive flooding in residential areas of the city, which sits on the floodplains of the mighty Irrawaddy river.

An official at Yangon International Airport said all incoming flights had been diverted to the second city of Mandalay, in the middle of the southeast Asian nation, and all departures from Yangon had been cancelled.

Weather officials said Nargis was expected to keep moving northeast from Yangon and cross into northern Thailand in the next 24 hours.

The damage appeared so extensive that it could be several days before power, telecommunication and transport services are up and running, possibly affecting preparations for a referendum on a new constitution scheduled for May 10. (Reporting by Aung Hla Tun; Writing by Ed Cropley; Editing by Bill Tarrant)



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