The evacuation of Rohingya refugees from “risk areas” in Bangladesh will be carried out due to the imminent arrival of the most powerful cyclone in the last 20 years in both Bangladesh and Burma. The cyclone, known as Mocha, has been classified as “very violent” by meteorological experts in Dhaka and “extremely violent” by their Indian counterparts. It is expected to make landfall Sunday morning between Cox’s Bazar, home to nearly one million Rohingya refugees in mostly precarious camps, and Sittwe, on the west coast of Burma’s Rakhine state.
Bangladeshi authorities have banned the construction of permanent housing for these refugees for fear that they will settle permanently rather than return to Burma, from where they fled in 2017. Ahead of the cyclone’s arrival, thousands of volunteers have evacuated Rohingya in “risky areas” to more solid structures, such as schools. However, Bangladesh’s deputy refugee commissioner, Shamsud Douza, warns that all Rohingya in the camps are at risk.
Cyclone Mocha is expected to bring heavy rains that could cause landslides. Most of the camps are in mountainous areas prone to landslides, so there is a high risk. In addition, the cyclone is forecast to generate a storm surge of up to four meters, which could flood coastal villages and low-lying areas along rivers.
Amid the danger, approximately 1,000 residents of the tourist island of St. Martin, located in southern Bangladesh and in the cyclone’s path, fled in panic.
Cyclone Mocha is considered the most powerful cyclone since Cyclone Sidr in 2007, which killed more than 3,000 people and caused billions of dollars worth of damage in southwest Bangladesh.
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