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Rocky shoreline helped Myanmar


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(CNN) -- The reclusive country of Myanmar was "incredibly fortunate" not to have suffered more from the December 26 tsunamis, Joanna MacLean of the International Federation of the Red Cross says.

According to various reports from the United Nations, local agencies and the IFRC, 86 people in Myanmar, formerly Burma, are confirmed dead and the death toll is not expected to exceed 100, MacLean said.

"It is really amazing," she said. "I, in fact, was in Thailand at the time and came back immediately afterwards because I feared the worst."

MacLean said Myanmar's military government has been cooperative in the wake of the aftermath.

She credited Myanmar's rocky shoreline and the angle of the coast with preventing the damage that killed over 5,000 in Thailand and thousands more on India's Andaman Islands, which are about 200 miles (320 km) off the coast of mainland Myanmar.

Myanmar's Irrawaddy Delta south of Yangon was hit the hardest, MacLean said.

However, the loss of life was stemmed, according to eyewitness accounts, because survivors fled for higher ground after the first wave hit.

The three waves "were half an hour apart, which meant the people who already saw the first wave and then even saw the second had time to go to the monasteries, which are always on higher ground, and to the schools," MacLean said.

Between 5,000 and 6,000 people were left homeless, but many have returned to their villages because they fled out of fear.

"This is not an emergency situation," she said.


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