Cyclone Mocha crashed through Myanmar and southeastern Bangladesh on Sunday, sparing sprawling refugee camps but bringing a storm surge to swaths of western Myanmar where communications were largely cut off.
Mocha made landfall between Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh and Myanmar’s Sittwe, packing winds of up to 195kmph (120mph) as the strongest storm to hit the Bay of Bengal in more than a decade.
By late Sunday, the cyclone had largely passed and India’s weather office said it would weaken as it hit the rugged hills of Myanmar’s interior.
Some 400-500 makeshift shelters were damaged in camps housing almost one million Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar but there were no immediate reports of casualties.
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In Teknaf, Bangladesh, volunteers emerged to remove fallen trees and other obstacles from the roads. Disaster relief official Kamrul Hasan said the cyclone had caused “no major damage” in Bangladesh, adding authorities had evacuated 750,000 people before the cyclone.
Communications with the port town of Sittwe were largely cut off following the cyclone. Streets in the town of about 150,000 people turned into rivers as the storm surged ashore, tearing roofs from buildings and downing power lines. The wind ripped apart homes made of tarpaulin and bamboo at one camp for displaced Rohingya at Kyaukphyu in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
Its residents were anxiously watching the rising sea tide, camp leader Khin Shwe told the AFP news agency. “We are now going to check whether sea water is increasing to our place … if the seawater rises, our camp can be flooded,” he said.
In Kyauktaw town, nearly two hours drive inland, residents emerged after the storm into debris-littered streets and began patching up the damage to their properties. “A power pylon had crashed into one house and several buildings had lost their corrugated iron roofs. I am very scared as I never had such an experience,” said Phyu Ma, 51. “I have never seen such a strong wind … I didn’t think this would happen. I thought only Sittwe will be hit.”
Thousands left Sittwe on Saturday, packing into trucks, cars and tuk-tuks and heading for higher ground inland as meteorologists warned of a storm surge of up to 3.5 metres (11 feet). “We are not OK because we didn’t bring food and other things to cook,” said Maung Win, 57, who spent the night in a shelter in Kyauktaw. “We can only wait to get food from people’s donations.”