A powerful cyclone battered the coast of Myanmar Sunday, causing widespread destruction and leaving at least three people dead, officials say.
Cyclone Mocha made landfall Sunday afternoon near Sittwe township along Myanmar’s western coast with maximum sustained winds of 130 miles per hour, tearing roofs off homes and buildings, leaving some people trapped in low-lying areas of the Southeast Asian country.
The cyclone also damaged refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh, but according to Reuters, it was Myanmar's “strife-torn Rakhine State that bore the brunt of the storm.”
More than 850 houses, 64 schools, 14 health facilities and seven communication towers were destroyed or damaged, the news service said, citing state-run television. At least three deaths were reported.
More than 400,000 people were evacuated in Myanmar and Bangladesh ahead of the cyclone, according to Reuters.
The Associated Press reported that more than 4,000 of Sittwe's residents were evacuated to other cities, and roughly 20,000 people were “sheltering in sturdy buildings such as monasteries, pagodas and schools located on the city's highlands.”
Cyclones are, essentially, the same weather phenomenon as hurricanes and typhoons, and they differ only in where they form. Cyclones form over the South Pacific and Indian oceans; typhoons form over the northwestern Pacific Ocean; and hurricanes form over the North Atlantic and northeast Pacific oceans.
The early evacuations helped Myanmar avoid heavy casualties seen in previous storms.
In 2008, Cyclone Nargis slammed into Myanmar’s southern coast, killing at least 138,000 people.