The aftermath of the cyclone in the Site Pyone Yay refugee camp near Ponnagyun Township in Sittwe district, Myanmar The aftermath of the cyclone in the Site Pyone Yay refugee camp near Ponnagyun Township in Sittwe district, Myanmar  (AFP or licensors)

Cyclone Mocha strikes Myanmar bringing death and destruction

A powerful cyclone crashed ashore in Myanmar causing at least six deaths, hundreds of injuries, and a vast communications blackout that has left relief workers struggling to assess the extent of the damage. Cyclone Mocha struck between Myanmar’s port city of Sittwe and Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, home to nearly one million mostly Rohingya refugees forced out of Myanmar by a military crackdown.

By Linda Bordoni

Rescuers on Monday evacuated about 1,000 people trapped by seawater 3.6 meters deep along western Myanmar's coast after a powerful cyclone injured hundreds and cut off communications.

Deaths were reported, but the true impact of Cyclone Mocha, one of the most powerful to ever hit the region, was not yet clear in one of Asia’s least developed countries.

Strong winds injured more than 700 of some 20,000 people who were sheltering in sturdier buildings on the highlands of Sittwe township, such as monasteries, pagodas and schools.

Seawater flooded low-lying grounds near the shore as the cyclone made landfall in Myanmar’s Rakhine state on Sunday afternoon, forcing residents to seek safety on roofs and higher floors, while the wind and storm surge prevented immediate rescue.

Humanitarian emergency

Witnesses said that even after the storm weakened a bit, the water did not fall back, and people sat on roofs and high places all night.

Volunteers have asked Burmese civil society organizations and authorities to send aid and help evacuate residents.

The State Administration Council issued disaster declarations for 17 townships in Rakhine state.

Meanwhile, several injuries were reported in neighbouring Bangladesh, which was spared the predicted direct hit. Initially, the city of Cox’s Bazar was on high alert, with authorities evacuating hundreds of thousands of people before the cyclone veered east.

U.N. agencies and aid workers in Bangladesh had prepositioned tons of dry food and dozens of ambulances in the city's refugee camps that house more than 1 million Rohingya Muslims who fled persecution in Myanmar.

Climate Change

Climate scientists say cyclones in the Bay of Bengal are becoming more intense more quickly, in part because of climate change. They also retain their energy for many days and can continue to travel over land causing extensive devastation.

Tropical cyclones, which are called hurricanes or typhoons in other regions, are among the world’s most devastating natural disasters when they hit densely populated coastal areas. (Source AP)

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15 May 2023, 12:48