Asia

Bangladesh rides out weakened storm

Destroyed houses and shops in Patuakhli, Bangladesh, on 16 May 2013 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Houses were destroyed in some coastal parts of Bangaldesh

A tropical storm that officials had feared would cause widespread devastation in Bangladesh and Burma lost power quickly as it moved inland.

More than a million people had been told to evacuate low-lying coastal areas as Cyclone Mahasen approached.

But it weakened as it advanced and a predicted storm surge was avoided because it hit at low tide.

However, thousands of homes were damaged and at least 13 people killed in Bangladesh.

Reports suggested that most of the 13 died after being struck by trees.

Mahasen made landfall in Patuakhali district in southern Bangladesh on Thursday morning.

But it spared the ports of Chittagong and Cox's Bazar, instead heading west of its predicted course.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Over a million people were evacuated in preparation for the storm

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina "expressed gratitude to the Almighty" and encouraged people to "offer thanksgiving prayers", her spokesman told reporters.

Residents who took refuge in shelters in schools and government buildings are now returning home, and airports and ports are being reopened, the BBC's Sanjoy Majumder in Cox's Bazar reports.

Thousand of houses have been destroyed, mostly thatched huts belonging to villagers along the coast, our correspondent adds.

"At least 15,000 mud-built houses were damaged by the cyclone in our district," Sirajul Islam, an official in Bangladesh's Noakhali district in Chittagong, told AFP news agency.

'Bodies recovered'

Meanwhile, reports suggested that Burma was largely spared from the storm.

"It's all over, and we are very relieved that we didn't have any unfortunate incident in Rakhine state due to the cyclone," regional spokesman Win Myaing said.

Ahead of its arrival, UN agencies had warned that tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims displaced by ethnic violence last year were at risk.

But many refused to evacuate from temporary camps and shelters, saying that they had nowhere safe to go.

Bangladeshi authorities had recovered 25 bodies believed to be from neighbouring Burma, AFP reported.

Officials said their clothing suggested they were bodies of Muslim Rohingya missing since their boat capsized off the coast of western Burma on Monday.

The boats, said to be carrying about 100 passengers, had been evacuating people ahead of the cyclone.

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