Burma: Cyclone Mocha kills at least 41 people in Rakhine state

Cyclone Mocha killed at least 41 villages in western Burma’s Rakhine state, local officials told AFP on Tuesday.

Mocha made landfall on Sunday between Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine state, and Cox’s Bazar in neighboring Bangladesh with winds gusting up to 195 km/h.

“We can confirm that 17 people have been killed,” Carlo, the village administrator of Bu Ma, told an AFP journalist at the scene two days after Mocha passed.

Carlo said, “There will be more deaths because more than a hundred people are missing.”

The figure was added to a count of 24 dead, which was told to AFP by a chief of the neighboring area of ​​Khaung Doke Kar.

The leader requested anonymity for fear of retribution from the ruling junta.

The latest count established by the junta on Monday reported five dead and an unspecified number of wounded.

– In search of the missing –

It is not clear whether any of the deaths of Bu Ma and Khaung Dok Kar were included in the junta’s count.

Mocha, the biggest storm in the region in more than a decade, ravaged Rohingya villages and camps, downed trees and power pylons and destroyed fishing boats.

AFP was waiting for an updated count of Mocha’s victims on Tuesday, which was requested from a spokesman for the junta.

AFP reporters reported that on Tuesday morning residents of Bu Ma roamed the beach in search of relatives who had gone missing since the cyclone passed.

A Rohingya woman’s house destroyed by Cyclone Mocha at the Basara IDP camp in Sittwe, Burma on May 16, 2023 (AFP – Sai Aung Men)

According to human rights groups, the Muslim Rohingya minority are the target of travel restrictions within Burma, where they live under near-apartheid conditions.

Although settled in the country for generations, most Rohingyas have no access to citizenship, health or education in this mainly Buddhist country ruled by the military since the coup. Status as on February 1, 2021.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said it wanted to confirm reports that Rohingya in displacement camps had been killed in the storm.

“UNHCR is saddened by reports of deaths in IDP camps in Rakhine State in the aftermath of Cyclone Mocha,” UNHCR said in a statement.

UNHCR is “trying to conduct detailed assessments in IDP camps and at various sites to get a clear picture of the situation”, he said.

Communications in Sittwe, home to some 150,000 people, were slowly recovering on Tuesday, AFP journalists said, with roads cleared and the internet restored.

– Without help or food –

State media showed soldiers unloading planes loaded with aid at Sittwe airport on Monday.

But according to the Rohingyas, help has not reached them yet.

Residents on a bridge destroyed by Cyclone Mocha at Khaung Dote Khar Rohingya IDP camp in Sittwe on May 15, 2023 (AFP - Sai Aung Main)
Residents on a bridge destroyed by Cyclone Mocha at Khaung Dote Khar Rohingya IDP camp in Sittwe on May 15, 2023 (AFP – Sai Aung Main)

“No government, no organization has come to our village. We haven’t eaten for two days… we haven’t received anything and no one has come to ask about us,” 38-year-old Kyaw Swar Win told AFP. I can only say.”

In recent years, better weather forecasting and more efficient evacuations have reduced the death toll from cyclones.

In 2008, Cyclone Nargis devastated the Irrawaddy Delta in Burma, killing at least 138,000 people.

The government at the time faced international criticism for its handling of the natural disaster, accusing it of withholding emergency aid and denying access to humanitarian workers and supplies.

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