05/16/2023, 12.57
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Cyclone Mocha: hundreds of deaths feared among Rohingya people

Winds of up to almost 250 kilometres per hour tore down telecommunication towers and razed entire houses to the ground. Before the disaster already 6 million people between Burma's Rakhine State and the refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, were in need of humanitarian assistance. The local Church took action to send aid. In the previous days, army troops had forced thousands of civilians to flee in the rain.

Yangon (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Hundreds could be dead after Cyclone Mocha struck on 14 May between the city of Sittwe, capital of Burma's western Rakhine State, and the refugee camp of Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, where around one million ethnic Rohingya Muslim refugees who fled Burmese army violence have found shelter since 2017.

Although some 400,000 people had been evacuated, over 2 million individuals have been impacted by what experts consider to be one of the worst weather disasters to hit the region in recent times.

Myanmar's coup junta, which conducted a coup on 1 February 2021 and has been fighting resistance forces for more than two years for control of the country, declared Rakhine a disaster area after winds of up to almost 250 kilometres per hour knocked down telecommunications towers and razed entire homes to the ground.

The organisation Partners Relief and Development reported that refugees in the Rakhine refugee camps had 'counted deaths in the hundreds', while Aung Kyaw Moe, a Rohingya activist and advisor to the Ministry of Human Rights of the government of national unity in exile - composed mostly of former deputies of the previous government ousted in the coup - wrote on Twitter that the death toll in Sittwe alone was 400.

Bangladeshi officials currently reported no casualties in the refugee camps in Cox's Bazar, but communications have not yet been fully restored.

"Initial reports suggest that damage is extensive and needs among already vulnerable communities, particularly displaced people, will be high," reads a UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) document. Before the cyclone hit, 6 million people, including 1.2 million displaced by ethnic conflicts, were in need of humanitarian assistance.

The local Church sent a number of aid items to the people affected by the cyclone: "We sent rice, oil, onions and tarpaulins to 40 families whose houses were damaged in the municipality of Kyaukphyu. We used our Lenten fund for the emergency response," said Fr Nereus Tun Min, director of the Catholic charity Karuna Pyay.

"Communications remain down in Sittwe and Kyauktaw. It is also difficult to get there because of transport problems,' the priest added.

Hundreds of people who had taken refuge in elevated places in Myanmar returned to their homes yesterday, but complicating the situation in Rakhine, the United Nations points out, is the presence of ordnance due to the civil war in Myanmar because landslides and floods may have moved landmines and other explosives into areas previously considered safe. 

In recent days, the military junta's incursions have forced at least 16,000 people to flee under torrential rains: before hitting Rakhine, Cyclone Mocha flooded areas of Myanmar where the army is fighting against the strongholds of the anti-golpe resistance.

In the northern region of Sagaing, 'military columns have attacked villages since the storm began on 12 May. On Saturday, regime forces occupied the village of Min Ma, forcing residents to flee into the forest in the pouring rain,' a rescuer told The Irrawaddy.

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UN official: Cyclone Mocha and moving landmines threaten displaced people in Rakhine
19/05/2023 18:59
Bangladeshi forces and ethnic militias clash following Cyclone Mocha
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