DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Thousands of people on Sunday thronged monasteries, temples and schools seeking shelter from a powerful storm that swept across Myanmar’s coast, ripping roofs off buildings and killing at least three people.
The center of Cyclone Mocha made landfall on Sunday afternoon in Myanmar’s Rakhine State near the town of Sittwe, the Myanmar Meteorological Department said, with wind speeds of 209 kilometers (130 miles) per hour.
Myanmar’s military information office said the storm damaged homes, electrical transformers, mobile phone masts, boats and lampposts in the towns of Sittwe, Kyawkpyo and Goa. It added that the storm also ripped roofs off sports buildings in the Coco Islands, about 425 km (264 miles) southwest of Yangon, the country’s largest city.
Rakhine-based media reported that floods inundated streets and basements of homes in low-lying areas of Sittwe. Much of the area was cut off from telephone and internet services after high winds caused cell phone towers to collapse.
More than 4,000 of Sittwe’s 300,000 residents have been evacuated to other cities, and more than 20,000 people have taken refuge in sturdy buildings such as monasteries, temples and schools on the city’s highlands, said Tin Nyin O, who volunteers at shelters in Sittwe.
Lin Lin, head of a local charity, said earlier that there was not enough food in shelters in Sittwe after more people arrived than expected.
Teton Mitra, UNDP’s representative in Myanmar, wrote on Twitter: “Mocha has made landfall. 2 million people are at risk. Damage and loss is expected to be extensive. We are ready to respond and will need unhindered access to all affected communities.” .
Sunday morning, many deaths from wind and rain were reported in Myanmar. A rescue team from the eastern Shan state announced on their Facebook page on social media that they have recovered the bodies of a couple who were buried when a landslide caused by heavy rains hit their home in the town of Tachilek. Local media reported that a man was crushed to death when a banyan tree fell on him in Pyin O Lwin township in the central Mandalay region.
Aziz-ur-Rehman said authorities in the Bangladeshi city of Cox’s Bazar, which is in the expected path of the storm, had earlier said they had evacuated about 1.27 million people, but by early afternoon it looked like the storm would mostly miss the country as it veered east. Director of the Bangladesh Meteorological Department in Dhaka.
“The risk level has greatly decreased in Bangladesh,” he told reporters.
Dhaka-based Jamuna TV reported that strong winds and rain continued on St. Martin’s island in the Bay of Bengal in the afternoon, but fears of tidal waves did not occur as the cyclone began crossing the coast of Bangladesh at low tide.
UN agencies and aid workers in Bangladesh have stockpiled tons of dry food and dozens of ambulances with mobile medical teams in the sprawling refugee camps housing more than a million Rohingya who have fled persecution in Myanmar.
In May 2008, Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar with a storm wave that devastated populated areas around the Irrawaddy River Delta. At least 138,000 people were killed and tens of thousands of homes and other buildings were destroyed.
Cyclones in the Bay of Bengal are rapidly becoming more intense, partly due to climate change, said Roxy Mathew Kaul, a climatologist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology in Pune..
Climate scientists say hurricanes can now hold power for several days. Cyclone Amphan in eastern India in 2020 continued to travel overland as a powerful cyclone and cause widespread destruction.
“As long as the oceans are warm and the winds are favorable, hurricanes will retain their strength for much longer,” Cole said.
Hurricanes, giant storms similar to those known as typhoons or typhoons in other parts of the world, are among the world’s most destructive natural disasters, especially when they strike densely populated coastal areas.
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