Cyclone Mocha: Bangladesh and Myanmar face worst as storm intensifies

(CNN) – Aid agencies in Bangladesh and Myanmar say they are prepared for the disaster and have launched massive emergency plans as a powerful cyclone barrels toward millions of vulnerable people.

A tropical depression formed over the Bay of Bengal early Thursday morning Cyclone Mocha Intensified to the equivalent of a Category 5 Atlantic hurricane, with sustained winds of 259 kilometers per hour (161 mph) and gusts of 315 kph (195 mph).

According to the latest update from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center on Sunday, the storm is moving northward at 20 km (12 mph).

Mocha is expected to make landfall by Sunday afternoon local time (early Sunday morning ET), across Myanmar’s Rakhine State and southeast Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar, hosting the world’s largest city. refugee camp.

Outer bands have already impacted Myanmar and Bangladesh, bringing rain and strong winds to the region. Conditions conducive to landslides are expected to worsen further, bringing with them the threat of floods and landslides.

Disaster recovery teams and more than 3,000 local volunteers trained in disaster preparedness and first aid are kept ready in the camps, and a national cyclone alert system is in place, IFRC’s head of delegation, Sanjeev Kafle, said. Bangladesh delegation.

Coughley said 7,500 emergency shelter kits, 4,000 hygiene kits and 2,000 water containers are ready for distribution.


Cyclone Mocha is intensifying in the Bay of Bengal.

In addition, mobile health teams and dozens of ambulances are ready to respond to refugees and Bangladeshis, with specially trained teams ready to help the elderly, children and the disabled, Arjun Jain, the UN lead coordinator for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, told CNN.

“We expect this cyclone to have a more severe impact than any other natural calamity they have faced in the last five years,” Jain said. “At this stage, we do not know where the cyclone will make landfall and with what intensity. So we hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

Evacuation of people in low-lying areas or those with serious medical conditions has been initiated, he said.

In Myanmar, residents of the coastal areas of Rakhine state and Ayeyarwady region have evacuated and taken shelter in schools and monasteries.

Hundreds of Red Cross volunteers are on standby and the agency is relocating vulnerable people and raising awareness of the storm in villages and towns, IFRC’s Coughley said.

The last storm to make landfall of similar strength was Tropical Cyclone Giri in October 2010. It made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 250 km/h (155 mph).

Giri caused more than 150 deaths and destroyed about 70% of the city of Kyakphyu. According to the United Nations, about 15,000 homes were destroyed in Rakhine state during the storm.

About 1 million members of the stateless Rohingya community, who fled persecution in neighboring Myanmar during a military crackdown in 2017, live in sprawling and overcrowded camps in Cox’s Bazar.

Most live in bamboo and tarpaulin shelters located on hilly slopes vulnerable to strong winds, rains and landslides.

Jain said the shelters could only withstand wind speeds of 40 km/h (24 mph), and he expected Cyclone Mocha to gust much higher than that.

“The low-lying areas of the camps are rapidly inundated, destroying facilities like shelters, learning centers and infrastructure like bamboo bridges,” he said.

The cyclone adds to an already devastating year for the Rohingya, and without additional funding from the international community, Jain said, they may not have enough to rebuild.

“They faced a 17% cut in food supplies earlier this year due to funding cuts, and we expect further cuts in their rations in the coming months. 16,000 refugees lost their homes in the devastating fires in March. Now they have to deal with hurricanes. Unfortunately, if the disaster is severe, , we don’t even have funds for the refugees to rebuild their homes and facilities,” he said.

There are concerns about 30,000 Rohingya refugees being isolated and vulnerable to flooding. Island facility In the Bay of Bengal, it is called Basan Sar. The The UN refugee agency said Volunteers and medical teams are on standby and hurricane shelters and food arrangements are in place for island residents.

In Myanmar, about 6 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance in Rakhine state and across the northwest, with 1.2 million displaced, according to the UN humanitarian agency.

Over the past few decades a Strength will increase Tropical cyclones that affect countries in parts of Asia and Recent research Predicts that they can be Doubles the destructive power In the region at the end of the century.

While scientists are still trying to understand how climate change affects hurricanes, human-caused global warming has been linked to more powerful and destructive hurricanes.

Tropical cyclones (also called hurricanes, typhoons, and tropical storms, depending on the ocean basin and intensity), feed on ocean heat. They need a temperature of at least 27 degrees Celsius (80 Fahrenheit) to develop, and if the ocean warms, they can take on more moisture.

The Bay of Bengal is currently at 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit), about 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than the average for May.

As the climate crisis raises the temperature of the oceans — which absorb 90% of the world’s excess heat — it provides better conditions for hurricanes to strengthen.

Warmer oceans also increase the chances of hurricanes Intensifies rapidlyAccording to recent research.

Climate change-induced sea-level rise increases risks, worsening storm surges from tropical cyclones and allowing them to travel further inland.

Bangladesh and Myanmar are particularly threatened because they are low-lying and home to some of the world’s poorest people.

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