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Cyclone kills 45 before losing strength

COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh -- Cyclone Mahasan weakened Thursday afternoon into a tropical storm and then dissipated, causing far less damage than had been feared as it passed over Bangladesh and spared Myanmar almost entirely, meteorological officials said.

At least 45 deaths related to Mahasen were reported in Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka, but officials had prepared for a far greater storm. Bangladesh evacuated 1 million people from coastal areas and the United Nations warned that 8.2 million people could face life-threatening conditions.

The cyclone lost power as it shed huge amounts of rainfall and then veered west of its predicted path, sparing major Bangladeshi population areas, including Chittagong and the seaside resort of Cox's Bazar, said Mohammad Shah Alam, director of the Bangladesh Meteorological Department.

Coastal regions were also spared major damage because the storm hit during low tide, which meant there was no major tidal surge, he said.

"Thank God we have been spared this time," local government administrator Ruhul Amin said.

The storm's impact in Myanmar's Rakhine state, where officials were having trouble evacuating tens of thousands of displaced Rohingya people, was minimal.

The storm's slow movement toward Bangladesh gave the government plenty of warning to get people to safety, Amin said.

"But for the evacuation, the casualties would have been higher," he said.

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