Myanmar refugees flee path of cyclone

AFP-JIJI

Myanmar on Sunday began moving people into emergency shelters as a cyclone threatened to batter a violence-wracked region home to tens of thousands of internal refugees.

About 140,000 internally displaced persons living in flimsy tents or makeshift housing are seen as particularly vulnerable to Cyclone Mahasen, which was gathering strength in the Bay of Bengal.

The cyclone is expected to make landfall somewhere near the Myanmar-Bangladesh border Thursday morning, according to the Department of Meteorology and Hydrology.

It said Mahasen, which was packing winds of up to about 100 kph, was likely to intensify into a “severe cyclonic storm” within the next 24 hours.

The internally displaced persons at particular risk are mostly stateless Rohingya Muslims uprooted by two outbreaks of deadly religious violence since June last year.

The alerts revived memories of Cyclone Nargis, which devastated Myanmar’s Irrawaddy Delta in May 2008, killing about 140,000 people.