| 17 July 2024, Wednesday |

Deadly Cyclone Mocha slams into Bangladesh, Myanmar

Thousands of people have sought refuge in monasteries, pagodas, and schools as a massive storm crashed into the coasts of Myanmar and southern Bangladesh on Sunday.

Cyclone Mocha smashed ashore, uprooting trees, scattering flimsy dwellings in Bangladeshi Rohingya refugee camps, and bringing a storm surge into low-lying areas.

Rescue services in Myanmar said two people were killed in a landslide, while local media reported the death of a man in Myanmar after a tree fell on him.

Packing winds of up to 195km/h (120mph), Mocha hit between Cox’s Bazar, home to nearly one million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, and Myanmar’s Sittwe, according to Bangladesh’s weather office.

Streets in Sittwe were turned into rivers as the biggest storm to hit the Bay of Bengal in more than a decade surged through the seaside town.

Al Jazeera’s Tanvir Chowdhury said the main Rohingya refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar had been spared from the central thrust of the cyclone. The wind speed was high, with “more of a drizzle than torrential rain”, Chowdhury said.

He said that while assessment of the damage was under way, it would take time to ascertain.

“It will take days and weeks to confirm the real damage [from the cyclone] as there are several small scattered coastal islands where fishermen don’t have means to communicate and don’t pay heed to warnings,” Chowdhury reported from Cox’s Bazar.

Myanmar’s military information office said the cyclone had damaged houses, electrical transformers, mobile phone towers, boats and lampposts in Sittwe, Kyaukpyu and Gwa townships. It said the storm also tore roofs off of sport buildings on the Coco Islands, about 425km (264 miles) southwest of the country’s largest city, Yangon.

A rescue team from the country’s eastern Shan state announced on its Facebook page that they had recovered the bodies of a couple who were buried when a landslide caused by heavy rain hit their house in Tachileik township.

Local media reported that a man was crushed to death when a banyan tree fell on him in Pyin Oo Lwin township in the central Mandalay Region of Myanmar.

In Sittwe, a cell phone tower collapsed amid strong winds and other buildings were damaged, local media reported.

More than 4,000 of Sittwe’s 300,000 residents were evacuated to other cities and more than 20,000 people are sheltering in sturdy buildings such as monasteries, pagodas and schools located on the city’s highlands, said Tin Nyein Oo, who is volunteering in shelters in Sittwe.

Many local people live in elevated areas more than 3m (10 feet) above sea level, where residents believe the storm surge cannot reach, he added.

Titon Mitra, the United Nations Development Programme representative in Myanmar, tweeted: “Mocha has made landfall. 2m people at risk. Damage and losses are expected to be extensive. We are ready to respond and will need unhindered access to all affected communities.”

  • Aljazeera