Bangkok/Dhaka, May 16 (EFE).- Sources warned that dozens of people may have died in Myanmar’s impoverished western region by the impact of cyclone Mocha, which has left a trail of devastation in its wake after making landfall on Sunday between the southern coast of Bangladesh and Myanmar’s west.
In a statement late on Monday, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said the cyclone had been one of the most powerful to have hit Myanmar, with the city of Sittwe – capital of the western Rakhine province with a population of around 150,000 – being the worst affected.
“Poor weather conditions and telecommunications interruptions make it difficult to assess the full extent of the damage. But early reports indicate that the destruction has been extensive,” the OCHA warned.
The UN body said that the storm had aggravated the humanitarian crisis in the region, which is home to hundreds of thousands of Rohingya people, a mostly Muslim minority persecuted by the Myanmar military, with a large section of the population being internally displaced.
Since a violent military campaign in 2017, nearly a million Rohingya refugees had fled to Bangladesh and have been living in the world’s largest refugee camps in the Cox’s Bazar district, which has faced the wrath of Mocha, although no casualties were reported.
The cyclone damage is mostly limited to Rakhine, where at least 22 Rohingyas have been killed by the storm according to local news website Myanmar Now, although other local media outlets have reported unverified death tolls running into hundreds.
Nonprofit Partners Relief $ Development, which operates in the area, also warned of hundreds of deaths on Twitter, adding that details would emerge as phone services were restored in more areas.
OCHA said that it had partially reestablished communications with its partners in Rakhine, but they remained limited due to storm damage to telecom towers, while generators were the only power sources left for a large section of people.
The agency warned that Sittwe had been practically flattened with hardly any houses standing, while the bamboo huts of the 1.2-million displaced people had been extensively damaged.
Even before the cyclone’s landfall, OCHA had said that around 6 million people in the area were in need of humanitarian assistance.
The military junta-controlled state daily Global New Light of Myanmar said that 17 localities of Rakhine had been declared areas affected by a natural disasters, without mentioning casualties.
In neighboring Bangladesh, the cyclone caused widespread material damage without any casualties being reported.
The storm carried maximum sustained winds of nearly 150 kph when it lashed onto Bangladesh’s St. Martin’s Island, leveling hundreds of shanties and trees, before touching the coast after midday on Sunday.
“According to the primary report, the cyclone has partially or fully damaged over 10,600 houses, including over a thousand on St. Martin’s Island,” Mizanur Rahman, the director general of the Bangladesh Disaster Management Department, said on Monday, adding that the full extent of the damages was yet to be assessed.
The cyclone also affected 2,826 shelters in Rohingya camps, completely destroying 278 and partially damaging 2,548, according to a report prepared by the office of the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner.
According to authorities, over 5,300 Rohingyas had been relocated for their safety, while seven suffered minor injuries during the storm.
Before the cyclone made landfall, Myanmar and Bangladesh authorities had evacuated around 400,000 people from coastal areas to shelters, government facilities and schools. EFE