Hundreds feared dead after Cyclone Mocha strikes Myanmar and Bangladesh

Mosque in an IDP camp damaged by Cyclone Mocha. Sittwe, Rakhine Credit: UNOCHA/Pierre Lorioux/2023

A powerful category five cyclone has hit the coastlines of Bangladesh and Myanmar, bringing heavy rain and strong winds.

The intense Cyclone Mocha crashed through Myanmar and southeastern Bangladesh, making landfall between Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh and Myanmar's Sittwe with winds of up to 210 kilometres per hour.  

It is the biggest storm to hit the Bay of Bengal in over a decade. Hundreds of people are feared dead in Rakhine state in Myanmar, and in Chin State, over 900 houses, 10 schools and 10 churches were damaged. 

The powerful storm surges brought flooding to the port town of Sittwe in Myanmar, where streets were turned into rivers. Before the cyclone, at least 6 million people were in need of humanitarian support and about 1.2 million were displaced across Rakhine state and the northwest of Myanmar (OCHA). 

More than 1,300 bamboo shelters in Cox's Bazar, the world's largest refugee camp, have been destroyed.

At least 40 people have been reported dead in Myanmar, with fears that the deaths may number over 400.

400,000 people were evacuated from the cyclone's path.

In Bangladesh, many of the Rohingya refugees live in sprawling camps prone to flooding and landslides, with approximately one million Rohingya living in Cox's Bazar, the world's largest refugee camp. Bangladesh's government does not allow Rohingya refugees to leave the camps or build permanent structures, so the flimsy bamboo and tarpaulin structures are vulnerable to extreme weather.  

So far, more than 1,300 shelters in Cox’s Bazar have been reported as destroyed or damaged, as well as 16 mosques and learning centres, however there are no immediate reports of casualties. There are also concerns for hundreds of Rohingya refugees housed on island facility in the Bay of Bengal, called Bhasan Char, which is highly flood-prone.  

For such a powerful cyclone to hit not just one, but two areas where millions of people are already highly reliant on humanitarian aid is a serious challenge. Many communities in Myanmar and Bangladesh have already faced displacement, flooding, cyclones, COVID-19 and a cost-of-living crisis, and their coping capacity is eroded by the succession of challenges that they’ve faced in just a few short years.

Melville Fernandez, Caritas Australia’s Humanitarian Associate Director.

Caritas Australia’s partners on the ground are coordinating with government and other aid organisations to assess the damage. Caritas Bangladesh has capacity to shelter more than 150,000 people in cyclone shelters and has an extensive staff and volunteer network ready to respond across the affected areas.  

How to help people impacted by Cyclone Mocha

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