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People in Teknaf, Bangladesh, fled their homes to take shelter on May 14 (OSV News/Jibon Ahmed, Reuters)

Caritas Australia’s partners in Myanmar and Bangladesh are coordinating with government and other aid organisations to provide emergency relief in the aftermath of Cyclone Mocha, which has killed at least 40 people with fears for hundreds more.

The intense cyclone crashed through Myanmar and southeastern Bangladesh on Sunday, making landfall between Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh and Myanmar’s Sittwe with winds of up to 210 kilometres per hour.

It is the biggest storm to hit the Bay of Bengal in over a decade. There are 40 confirmed deaths so far, but fears that hundreds more may have died in Myanmar. More than 400,000 people were evacuated in Myanmar and Bangladesh.

The powerful storm surges brought flooding to the port town of Sittwe in Myanmar, where streets were turned into rivers. Before the cyclone, at least 6 million people were in need of humanitarian support and about 1.2 million were displaced across Rakhine state and the northwest of Myanmar.

In Bangladesh, many of the Rohingya refugees live in sprawling camps prone to flooding and landslides, with approximately one million Rohingya living in Cox’s Bazar, the world’s largest refugee camp. Bangladesh’s government does not allow Rohingya refugees to leave the camps or build permanent structures, so the flimsy bamboo and tarpaulin structures are vulnerable to extreme weather.

So far, more than 1,300 shelters in Cox’s Bazar have been reported as destroyed or damaged, as well as 16 mosques and learning centres, however there are no immediate reports of casualties. 

“For such a powerful cyclone to hit not just one, but two areas where millions of people are already highly reliant on humanitarian aid is a serious challenge,” said Melville Fernandez, Caritas Australia’s humanitarian associate director.



Hundreds feared dead after Cyclone Mocha in Myanmar and Bangladesh (Caritas Australia)