Thousands of individuals sought refuge in monasteries, pagodas, and schools as a powerful storm battered the coast of Myanmar, causing significant damage and claiming at least three lives. Cyclone Mocha made landfall in Myanmar’s Rakhine state near Sittwe township, bringing winds of up to 209 kilometers (130 miles) per hour. Prior to reaching Myanmar, the storm had affected Bangladesh’s Saint Martin’s Island, resulting in injuries and destruction, but it veered away from the country before hitting land.
As night fell, the full extent of the damage in Sittwe remained uncertain. However, early reports indicated that cell phone towers were toppled, severing communications in many areas. Videos captured before the disruptions showed flooded streets, violent winds uprooting trees, and roofs being torn off buildings.
Local media in Rakhine reported extensive flooding, trapping residents in low-lying areas and prompting appeals for rescue from concerned family members. Myanmar’s military information office reported damages to houses, electrical infrastructure, cell phone towers, boats, and lampposts in various townships, including Sittwe, Kyaukpyu, and Gwa. Sports buildings on the Coco Islands also suffered roof damage.
Over 4,000 residents of Sittwe were evacuated to other cities, while more than 20,000 sought shelter in sturdy structures such as monasteries, pagodas, and schools located in elevated areas. However, insufficient food supplies became a concern as more people arrived than anticipated. The UN Development Program representative in Myanmar expressed readiness to respond and emphasized the need for unimpeded access to affected communities.
Myanmar’s military government announced preparations to send aid, including food, medicine, and medical personnel, to the affected region. After striking Rakhine, the cyclone weakened and was projected to impact the northwestern state of Chin and central regions the following day.
Before reaching Myanmar, the storm had already caused fatalities due to wind and rain. A couple in Tachileik township in eastern Shan state perished in a landslide, while a man in Pyin Oo Lwin township in the central Mandalay region was fatally struck by a falling tree.
In Bangladesh, where the storm was initially predicted to hit, authorities evacuated hundreds of thousands of people. However, as the cyclone veered eastward, the level of risk in Bangladesh diminished. While strong winds and rain persisted on Saint Martin’s Island, feared tidal surges did not occur due to the cyclone’s low tide arrival on the Bangladesh coast.
Cyclones in the Bay of Bengal are becoming more intense and rapidly intensifying, partially due to climate change, according to climate scientists. Warm oceans and favorable wind conditions allow cyclones to maintain their intensity for longer durations. The devastating impact of cyclones on densely populated coastal regions makes them one of the world’s most destructive natural disasters. The memory of Cyclone Nargis in 2008, which claimed numerous lives and caused extensive destruction in Myanmar, serves as a somber reminder of its destructive power.
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