Eight killed as 'golf ball' hailstones, storms lash Myanmar

A woman looking at the damage to a roof caused by hailstones in Mandalay on April 24, 2016.
A woman looking at the damage to a roof caused by hailstones in Mandalay on April 24, 2016. PHOTO: AFP
A pagoda's umbrella lies destroyed after a freak hail storm, in Khin-U Township, Sagaing Region.
A pagoda's umbrella lies destroyed after a freak hail storm, in Khin-U Township, Sagaing Region.PHOTO: ELEVEN MYANMAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

YANGON (AFP) - Violent storms which saw hailstones the size of golf balls rain down across Myanmar have killed at least eight people in recent days, toppled pagodas and damaged thousands of buildings, officials said on Sunday (April 24).

The freak storms struck across five states on Friday and Saturday after weeks of heatwave temperatures regularly topping 40deg C.

"From what we know now there are eight people killed and 7,500 houses destroyed during these days," Phyu Lei Lei Tun, director of the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, told AFP, adding that the toll may increase as more information becomes available.

Six of the victims died in Yay Tha Yauk village in the central region of Mandalay after flash flooding. Other regions that were struck included Sagaing and Magway as well as the states of Shan and Chin.

Pictures and TV footage showed huge hailstones crashing onto flooded streets and clattering off metal roofs as residents rushed for shelter.

"I felt afraid of the strong wind, the rain and the hailstones when I looked out the window," Yin Myo, a resident of Mandalay, told AFP.

"Some hailstones were as large as golf balls, most about the size of ice cubes you put in drinks," she added, saying her aunt's house had been damaged.

The state-run Global New Light of Myanmar said more than 1,700 pagodas were damaged by gale- force winds in the southern state of Shan on Friday night.

Pictures on social media showed some of the pagoda spires, which were hundreds of years old, lying shattered on the ground.

Like much of the Greater Mekong region, Myanmar has been hit by drought in recent weeks amid a particularly fierce dry season.