Indian students head to their bus during a hot afternoon in Kolkata, India 11 May 2023. EFE-EPA/PIYAL ADHIKARY

Cyclone Mocha approaches Bangladesh, Myanmar amid fears of humanitarian crisis

Bangkok/Dhaka/New Delhi, May 12 (EFE).- Cyclone Mocha on Friday continued to move towards the coasts of Myanmar and Bangladesh ahead of its expected landfall on Sunday, while authorities are preparing to evacuate thousands of people from coastal regions with special concern for the Rohingya refugee camps.

Bangladesh authorities were finalizing evacuation plans for coastal population, including the Rohingyas living in the world’s largest refugee camps in its Cox’s Bazar district, where nearly a million members of this minority Muslim community from Myanmar have taken refuge after facing a campaign of persecution in their country.

The storm, which is carrying winds of up to 150 kilometers per hour, was on Friday situated around 935 kilometers south-southwest of Cox’s Bazar, weatherman Shahinul Islam told EFE.

He predicted that the cyclone, which has a diameter of between 500 and 700 kms, will make landfall between the coasts of Bangladesh and Myanmar around noon on Sunday.

Ahmadul Haque, the head of Bangladesh’s Cyclone Preparedness Program, told EFE that evacuations were expected to start on Saturday.

“As of now, we think evacuation will be needed mainly in Cox’s Bazar district. But we have put the entire coast on alter,” he said.

Meanwhile the World Meteorological Organization warned in a presser on Friday that Mocha was a very dangerous cyclone and could have a major humanitarian impact, especially through heavy rains and landslides on the Bangladeshi coast.

Around 15,000 residents of Myanmar’s western coast have already been evacuated, including around 10,000 in the Ayeyarwady region west of Yangon and the rest in the Rakhine state bordering Bangladesh, local media outlets reported Friday.

The Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System, established jointly in 2004 by the United Nations and the European Commission, on Thursday issued a red alert – the highest alert level – for the cyclone, which is currently classified as a category 3 storm out of a maximum scale of 5.

Indian authorities too raised the storm’s category to “very severe” on Friday and issued warnings in several regions that could witness effects of the cyclone until Sunday.

India’s National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has deployed eight teams and 200 rescuers in the state of West Bengal – which borders Bangladesh – to respond to emergency requirements.

In May 2020, super cyclone Amphan left more than 100 people dead in India and Bangladesh, in one of the worst such calamity in recent years.

Mocha is progressing in the Bay of Bengal just after the 15th anniversary of cyclone Nargis – the worst natural disaster in the history of Myanmar – which killed over 130,000 people in May 2008. EFE