Powerful Cyclone Mocha Threatens Bangladesh and Myanmar Coastlines

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Cyclone Mocha, intensifying into a category-five storm, is currently striking the coastlines of Bangladesh and Myanmar, bringing heavy rain and winds with dangerous flooding potential. With wind speeds reaching up to 195kph (120mph) and storm surges of up to four meters, low-lying areas around the Bay of Bengal are at risk of being swamped. There are concerns that the cyclone may hit Cox’s Bazar, the world’s largest refugee camp, where nearly one million people reside.

Forecasters have warned that Cyclone Mocha could be the most powerful storm witnessed in Bangladesh in almost 20 years. In response, approximately 500,000 individuals have been evacuated to safer areas. However, shelters set up in schools and monasteries in Cox’s Bazar are reportedly full and overcrowded. Authorities and police have been urging people to seek cover and avoid the beach area, while an official landslide warning has been issued due to the anticipated heavy rainfall on Sunday.

The Bangladeshi meteorological department office reported a maximum sustained wind speed of 195 kilometers per hour (120 miles per hour) within a 75km (45-mile) radius of the cyclone’s center, accompanied by gusts and squalls of 215 kilometers per hour (133 miles per hour). As the cyclone approached Myanmar, high winds knocked down a telecom tower in Sittwe, and videos on social media showed roofs being blown off houses and billboards flying off buildings in Yangon amidst heavy rain. Gale force winds and heavy rains were also experienced in Bangladesh.

Dr. MM Malik, a meteorologist at the government storm warning center in Dhaka, stated that Cyclone Mocha has yet to make landfall and is expected to do so at 15:00 (09:00 GMT). With a diameter of 520km, it is expected to take some time to cross the affected areas.

In preparation for the cyclone, nearby airports have been closed, fishermen instructed to suspend their work, and 1,500 shelters set up to relocate people from vulnerable areas to safer spots. The deluge of rain brought by Cyclone Mocha raises concerns about triggering landslides, posing a significant threat to those residing in hillside camps where landslips are a recurring phenomenon.

Of particular concern are the Rohingya refugees living in makeshift homes in the camps of Cox’s Bazar and people along the western coast of Myanmar. The UN Humanitarian Coordinator A.I. Ramanathan Balakrishnan expressed deep concerns about the impact of the cyclone on vulnerable populations already facing humanitarian crises, stating that it is a “nightmare scenario” that could severely affect hundreds of thousands of people with limited capacity to cope.

As Cyclone Mocha continues to pose a significant threat to Bangladesh and Myanmar, the focus remains on ensuring the safety and protection of affected communities, including the Rohingya refugees and vulnerable populations in the cyclone’s path.