The powerful cyclone along the western coast of Burma causes hundreds of injuries, at least 6 dead

Rescuers on Monday evacuated about 1,000 people trapped by seawater 12 feet deep along Burma’s west coast after a powerful cyclone injured hundreds and cut communications. Six deaths were reported, but the true impact was not yet clear in one of Asia’s least developed countries.

Strong winds injured more than 700 of an estimated 20,000 people who had taken refuge in sturdier buildings in Sittwe town’s highlands, such as monasteries, pagodas and schools, according to a leader of Sittwe’s Rakhine Youths Philanthropic Association. He asked not to be named for fear of reprisals from the authorities in the military-run country.

Seawater poured into more than 10 low-lying wards near the coast as Cyclone Mocha made landfall in Rakhine state on Sunday afternoon, he said. Residents moved to the roofs and higher floors, while wind and storm surges prevented immediate relief efforts.

“After 4pm yesterday, the storm eased a bit, but the water didn’t come back. Most of them sat on the roof and high points of their houses all night. The wind blew all night,” said the leader of the rescue group. he said.

The water was still about 5 feet high in the flooded areas later Monday, but relief efforts were made as the wind died down and the sun rose in the sky. He called on civil society organizations and the authorities to send aid and help evacuate residents.


Six deaths were reported by Burmese media and rescue groups. Several injuries were reported in neighboring Bangladesh, which were spared the expected direct hit.

Mocha touched down near the town of Sittwe with winds blowing up to 130 miles per hour, Burma’s meteorological department said. By noon on Monday, it had weakened to a tropical depression, according to the Indian Meteorological Department.

The State Administration Board has issued disaster declarations for 17 municipalities in Rakhine state.

Locals ride motorbikes after Cyclone Mocha devastated Rakhine State, Burma on May 15, 2023. (AP Photo)

Strong winds toppled cell phone towers, but in videos collected by local media before communications were cut, deep water ran through the streets and wind blew off the rooftops.

Burma’s military intelligence office said the storm damaged homes and electrical transformers in Sittwe, Kyaukpyu and Gwa townships. He said roofs were ripped off buildings on the Coco Islands, about 264 miles southwest of the country’s largest city, Yangon.

Volunteers previously said shelters in Sittwe did not have enough food after more people arrived there seeking help.

Mocha largely spared the Bangladeshi city of Cox’s Bazar, which was initially in the expected path of the storm. Authorities had evacuated hundreds of thousands of people before the cyclone veered east.


A Bangladesh government official, Enamur Rahman, said the damages were still being assessed, but about 2,000 houses were destroyed and another 10,000 were damaged on Saint Martin’s Island and Teknaf in Cox’s Bazar district.

He said no deaths were reported.

About a dozen people were injured on the island of Saint Martin, the Prothom Alo newspaper reported.

UN agencies and aid workers in Bangladesh had prepositioned tons of dry food and dozens of ambulances in refugee camps housing more than 1 million Rohingya Muslims who fled persecution in Burma.

In May 2008, Cyclone Nargis hit Burma with a storm surge that devastated populated areas around the Irrawaddy River Delta. At least 138,000 people died and tens of thousands of homes and other buildings were swept away.

Roxy Mathew Koll, a climate scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology in the city of Pune, said cyclones in the Bay of Bengal are getting more intense and faster, partly due to climate change.


Climate scientists say cyclones can now store their energy for many days. Cyclone Amphan in eastern India in 2020 continued to travel over the land as a strong cyclone and caused extensive devastation.

“As long as the oceans are warm and the winds are favorable, cyclones will maintain their intensity for a longer period,” Koll said.

Tropical cyclones, called hurricanes or typhoons in other regions, are among the world’s most devastating natural disasters when they hit densely populated coastal areas.


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