Cyclone hammers Yangon; serious casualties expected
YANGON (AP): A tropical cyclone with 190-kilometer-per-hour (120-mph) winds ripped through Yangon early Saturday, tearing off roofs, uprooting trees and knocking out electricity.
Serious casualties were expected after Tropical Cyclone Nargis hammered Myanmar's commercial capital at about 5 a.m. local time (2200 GMT), said an official from the country's Meteorology Department, who refused to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the press.
``The cyclone wreaked havoc in Yangon,'' said the official, adding the Irrawaddy delta town of Bassein, 160 kilometers (99 miles) west of Yangon, was also hit.
``The damage will be extensive as the cyclone passed through many densely populated areas,'' the official said.
Witnesses said the streets of Yangon were empty Saturday morning and most shops and markets were closed. Rooftops littered the street alongside trees and other debris.
The only deaths reported so far linked to the bad weather occurred late Friday when three women drowned trying to cross a canal on the Yangon River, according to dock workers, who refused to be identified fearing government reprisals. The women's boat capsized in rough waters and heavy winds.
The cyclone was originally expected to hit Bangladesh on Friday, but it changed its path and slammed into Myanmar instead.