Cyclone Mocha hits Bangladesh and Myanmar coast, at least five reported dead
A powerful cyclone has hit the coastlines of Bangladesh and Myanmar after intensifying into the equivalent of a category-five storm.
Forecasters had warned Cyclone Mocha could be the most devastating storm the people of Bangladesh have encountered in the past 20 years. Although, as was widely feared, it did not make landfall in the largest refugee camp in the world – the Cox’s Bazar, it still destroyed scores of makeshift homes in the camp.
So far, no casualties have been reported by Bangladeshi authorities. But neighbouring Myanmar has seen at least five deaths in the storm, including that of a 14-year-old boy who was killed by a falling tree in the western Rakhine state.
The cyclone had largely passed by late Sunday.
Bangladesh’s disaster official Kamrul Hasan said the storm didn’t bring “major damage” to the country, but floods and landslides are still wreaking havoc in some places.
Meanwhile, Myanmar appears to have experienced the brunt of the cyclone, with the storm crashing through numerous houses and cutting power lines in Rakhine state. Camps for displaced Rohingya refugees in the state were among the houses ripped apart.
Electricity and wireless connections received heavy damage in Sittwe, the state capital, while footage online showed a telecom tower collapsed to the ground by strong winds. Several other videos shared on social media showed houses with no or damaged roofs and billboards flying off structures in Yangon amid torrential downpours.
750,000 people in Bangladesh had been evacuated ahead of the cyclone. As the storm intensified, streets started emptying out. Hundreds of people took shelter in a school in the city. They had come from fishing and coastal villages, some even a couple of hours away.
Many brought mats to sleep on, while others brought their livestock – cattle, chickens and goat. A number of people were terrified thinking about the possible state of their houses once they went back.
Although Cox’s Bazar wasn’t entirely destroyed, it received a major blow. The Bangladeshi government doesn’t allow Rohingya refugees to leave their camps or construct permanent structures.
As the storm approached, the people hunkered down in fragile bamboo shelters with roofs of tarpaulin. Some of the refugees were transferred to community shelters within the camps, which offered just a little more protection.
Over 1,300 shelters were damaged by the cyclone, with 16 mosques and learning centres receiving a heavy blow too, the BBC quoted authorities as saying. Trees had fallen in the camps, while a couple of landslides also brought some damage.
In 2008, Cyclone Nargis wreaked havoc in Myanmar’s southern coastal regions, killing almost 140,000. Most of the casualties occurred when a 3.5-metre wall of water hit the low-lying Irrawaddy Delta.