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Cyclone abates in Myanmar, brings rain to capital

Written by: Staff
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YANGON, Apr 29 (Reuters) Powerful Cyclone Mala today made landfall in Myanmar but quickly lost intensity, a senior official said, soothing fears of a repeat of a 2004 disaster which killed more than 100 and left 18,000 homeless.

The storm brought heavy rain to the capital, Yangon, where clogged drains failed to cope with the downpour, causing 1-ft floods on some downtown streets, residents said.

Mala's power abated as it crossed the coast of southern Rakhine state near Gwa township, Meteorology and Hydrology Department Director-General Tun Lwin told Reuters.

''Previously it had intensified into a severe cyclone with hurricane-force winds but it abated and downgraded when it started crossing Gwa township,'' Tun Lwin said.

The official said surface wind speeds, earlier estimated at about 150 miles per hour had dropped to 45-50 mph and he had no reports so far of severe damage.

In Sittwe, capital of Rakhine state which was hit by the worst storm in 40 years in mid 2004, most fishing trawlers had taken refuge after warnings from the weather agencies, one resident told Reuters by telephone.

''We are very lucky this time because the storm abated and responsible officials made some preparations,'' said the resident, who declined to be identified.

Critics blamed lack of advance warnings for the big loss of life in the state two years ago.

In Thailand, Myanmar's eastern neighbour, the Meteorological Department issued an alert today as Mala, which means ''a garland of flowers'' in Bengali, threatened to bring heavy rains and flash floods to its seven northern and central provinces.| REUTERS SHB BST1133

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