Cyclone Mocha Hits Bangladesh and Myanmar, Leaving Destruction in Its Wake

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Cyclone Mocha, a powerful storm that reached the equivalent of a category-five hurricane, made landfall along the coastlines of Bangladesh and Myanmar, causing widespread destruction. Although the sprawling refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar was spared a direct hit, hundreds of makeshift shelters were torn apart. Myanmar’s Rakhine state, in particular, faced significant devastation, with reports indicating that up to 90 percent of Sittwe, the capital city, was destroyed.

As the storm pounded through Rakhine state, it unleashed winds of approximately 209 km/h (130 mph), toppling houses and cutting off power lines. Displaced Rohingya camps in the area were also severely affected. Myanmar’s military declared Rakhine state a natural disaster area, and the Myanmar Red Cross Society has begun preparations for a major emergency response.

In Bangladesh, authorities had evacuated approximately 750,000 people ahead of the cyclone. While the storm caused no major damage, the country is still experiencing landslides and floods. So far, no casualties have been reported in Bangladesh. However, in Myanmar, at least six deaths have been confirmed, including that of a 14-year-old boy who was killed by a falling tree.

Videos shared online captured the intense winds and heavy rain wreaking havoc across the region. Roofs were blown off houses, telecommunication towers collapsed, and billboards flew off buildings. The cyclone’s impact disrupted electricity and wireless connections, exacerbating the difficulties faced by affected communities.

In Cox’s Bazar, the world’s largest refugee camp, Rohingya refugees, prohibited from leaving the camp or constructing permanent structures, sought shelter in flimsy bamboo shelters with tarpaulin roofs. While some were relocated to community shelters within the camp, the protection offered was limited. Over 1,300 shelters, along with mosques and learning centers, were damaged by the cyclone’s powerful winds. The camps also experienced fallen trees and two landslides, further adding to the challenges faced by the vulnerable population.

Authorities in both countries took proactive measures, such as shutting down airports, suspending fishing activities, and establishing numerous shelters to ensure the safety of residents in vulnerable areas. Despite the potential for significant damage, the cyclone’s impact in Bangladesh was relatively minimal, with no reported casualties in the camps. However, the region remains at risk of storm surges, particularly in low-lying areas.

Cyclone Mocha served as a stark reminder of the regular pattern of destructive cyclones that residents in these coastal regions face. The impoverished population, including Rohingya refugees, expressed their concerns about the lack of permanent and resilient structures to withstand such storms. Efforts to rebuild and strengthen homes in vulnerable areas are necessary to protect communities from future cyclones and their devastating consequences.