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At least 27 dead after cyclone pounds Myanmar: state media

Storm Richard weakens, bit pummels Belize after landfall
Cancun, Mexico (AFP) Oct 25, 2010 - Tropical Storm Richard weakened early Monday after making contact with dry land, but still pummeled the Central American nation of Belize with torrential rains and fierce winds. Richard made landfall as a category one hurricane around 0045 GMT near low-lying Belize City, according to the Miami-based National Hurricane Center. But it quickly lost its punch and was downgraded to a tropical storm, with sustained winds reaching 100 kilometers (65 miles) an hour, down from 150 kilometers (90 miles) an hour at the time of landfall. However, even as a shadow of its former self, Richard carried torrential rains that "could produce life-threatening flash floods and mud slides, especially in mountainous terrain," the center warned. Belize City is the largest city, with some 80,000 people, in the former British Honduras on Central America's Caribbean coast. Until Sunday, it had not been hit directly by a hurricane in almost 50 years -- since 1961.

The storm was moving west-northwest at 19 kilometers (12 miles) per hour, according to the NHC. It was forecast to move across northern Guatemala and southeastern Mexico Monday and emerge into the southern Gulf of Mexico later in the day or early Tuesday. "Steady weakening is expected today as Richard remains inland," the US center predicted. It also warned earlier that a storm surge would raise water levels by as much as 3-5 feet (1-1.5 meters) above normal tide levels along the coast of Belize near and to the north of the center. The 17th named storm of the season, Richard is just the latest in what has become a long and especially destructive rainy season for Central America and southern Mexico. Mudslides and floods have already killed more than 300 people in Central America this year, and left thousands more homeless. Honduran officials said some 360 people were evacuated as a precaution from vulnerable areas in two of Honduras's Bay Islands -- Bahia and Trujillo -- on the country's northern Caribbean coast. Honduras' disaster response agency, Copeco, said in a statement that the storm caused landslides cutting off road access to 40 coastal communities with 15,000 people, 600 kilometers (370 miles) north of Tegucigalpa.
by Staff Writers
Yangon (AFP) Oct 25, 2010
At least 27 people were killed and 15 are missing after a powerful cyclone struck western Myanmar, leaving a trail of destruction in its path, official media reported late Monday.

Cyclone Giri destroyed 2,800 homes, dozens of government buildings and two bridges, according to state radio in the army-ruled country.

The storm slammed into the coastal state of Rakhine on Friday with winds of up to 193 kilometres (119 miles) per hour.

Official media had previously remained tight-lipped about the number of casualties.

Several government ministers inspected damage to buildings and houses in the town of Kyaukpyu in Rakhine state on Sunday, according to a report in the New Light of Myanmar newspaper, a mouthpiece for the military government

They also distributed clothes, food, bottled water, construction materials and cash to victims at a makeshift camp, the report said.

The coastal town was badly hit, with the power cut off and the sea wall damaged. On Friday the meteorology office predicted sea levels could swell by as much as 3.7 metres (12 feet).

A Red Cross worker in Yangon estimated Saturday that about 70 percent of Kyaukpyu town was destroyed, with about 60,000 people in the district needing assistance.

Trees were reportedly toppled and power was cut to some areas.

After hitting the coast, the storm headed northeast through the centre of the country, losing strength along the way.

Myanmar is frequently hit by tropical storms and in 2008 was battered by Cyclone Nargis, which left 138,000 people dead or missing, mostly in the southwest delta region.

Nargis unleashed winds of 240 kilometres an hour and storm surges up to four metres high, sweeping away thousands of homes, flooding rice fields with salt water and ravaging schools and hospitals.

Myanmar's military government faced international criticism for its response to the disaster. It was accused of blocking emergency aid and initially refusing to grant access to humanitarian workers and supplies.

In a separate incident Sunday, at least 14 people were killed and about 100 more injured after a fire broke out at an oil pipeline in central Myanmar, a government official.

The blaze appeared to have been ignited accidentally by local villagers who were collecting oil leaking from the pipeline near Pakokku town in the Magway region.

Myanmar is due to hold its first election in 20 years on November 7 but Western nations have said the vote will not be credible unless detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other opposition figures are freed.

earlier related report
Relatives of 19 Chinese missing in typhoon fly to Taiwan
Taipei (AFP) Oct 25, 2010 - Relatives of 19 Chinese tourists missing in Taiwan for four days after Typhoon Megi hit were set to arrive on the island Monday, as authorities stepped up their search for those unaccounted for.

The family members were due as rescuers found an unidentified body on a beach in northeastern Taiwan, bringing to 14 the island's confirmed death toll from Megi, the strongest storm to strike the northwest Pacific in two decades.

The body was so mangled by a landslide brought on by the typhoon that it was impossible to immediately determine if it was a man or woman, officials said.

The 36 relatives wanted to come to Taiwan to understand the rescue operations better and possibly be of help in identifying their loved ones, an official with Taiwan's Tourism Bureau said.

The 19 Chinese were among 24 missing after the typhoon battered Taiwan on Thursday and Friday, although that figure could be revised following the discovery of the body.

Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau said that tropical storm Chaba, now emerging in the Pacific about 1,200 kilometres (700 miles) from the island, might bring heavy rains to Taiwan, hampering the ongoing search.

The military dispatched divers and helicopters to search the ocean coast, as officials feared the bus carrying the missing Chinese might have plunged into the sea.

Emergency workers had already dug up nine bodies buried under the debris of a temple swamped by mudslides, while four more were killed elsewhere, the National Fire Agency said.

Megi made landfall in mainland China on Saturday afternoon, where meteorologists Sunday downgraded it to a tropical depression as it dumped torrential rain on coastal provinces.

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Hurricane Richard pummels Belize after landfall
Cancun, Mexico (AFP) Oct 25, 2010
Hurricane Richard pummeled the Central American nation of Belize with torrential rains and fierce winds early Monday after making landfall just south of low-lying Belize City. Richard made landfall around 0045 GMT along the coast of Belize, about 35 kilometers (20 miles) south-southwest of Belize City, packing sustained winds of 150 kilometers (90 miles) per hour, the Miami-based National Hu ... read more

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