Cyclone slams into main Myanmar city and shuts airport
UPDATE: 4:20PM EST - May 3
Severe tropical cyclone Nargis continued to lash Myanmar's main city today.
Electricity supplies in Yangon have been cut since late Friday night as the storm bore down from the Bay of Bengal, packing winds of 190-240 kilometres (120-150 miles) per hour, residents said.
Trees were uprooted across the city and streets were deserted with no buses or taxis seen and all shops closed. Many buildings were damaged with their roofs blown off and billboards knocked down.
"I have never seen such a storm in my life," one resident told AFP.
Nargis made landfall around the mouth of the Ayeyawaddy (Irrawaddy) river, about 220 kilometres southwest of Yangon, before hitting the country's economic hub.
Saturday evening it was forecast to move northeast towards Thailand, which warned that flash floods could hit the north, centre and east of the country and said heavy rains were expected until Monday.
Myanmar's state-run radio was off the air in Yangon and Internet connections were down, with even government sites unavailable. A meteorologist said he was unable to give updated information as he had lost contact with other offices.
A tropical cyclone has slammed into Myanmar's main city airport, forcing it to close as it ripped off roofs, felled trees and brought down power lines.
The electricity supply -- hit-and-miss at the best of times in one of Asia's poorest countries -- failed after Cyclone Nargis, packing winds of up to 120 mph, first started to lash the former capital on Friday evening.
There were no reports of deaths, although meteorological officials in the former Burma said the cyclone could trigger a storm surge of up to 12 feet (3.5 metres) in coastal areas.
State-run MRTV and Yangon City Radio were off the air, as were the normally shaky Internet services.
Buses and trains were not operating due to extensive flooding in residential areas of the city, which sits on the floodplains of the mighty Irrawaddy river.
An official at Yangon International Airport said all incoming flights had been diverted to the second city of Mandalay, in the middle of the southeast Asian nation, and all departures from Yangon had been cancelled.
Weather officials said Nargis was expected to keep moving northeast from Yangon and cross into northern Thailand in the next 24 hours.
The damage appeared so extensive that it could be several days before power, telecommunication and transport services are up and running, possibly affecting preparations for a referendum on a new constitution scheduled for May 10.