News Update


After Cyclone Mocha, hundreds of deaths in Myanmar are feared.

Rescue organizations have warned of “a large scale loss of life” following one of the strongest storms to ever hit Myanmar, which is believed to have killed hundreds of people.

On Sunday, Cyclone Mocha plowed into Myanmar’s shore, destroying hundreds of thousands of homes, trees, telephone poles, and communication cables in the war-torn Rakhine state, which is home to tens of thousands of displaced people.

At least 400 people have died, according to the shadow government of Myanmar, while an undetermined number of individuals are still missing. In contrast to an earlier report by the military junta’s Myawaddy TV, which claimed the official death toll is three, with 13 further injuries, CNN is unable to independently verify that number.

However, sources told CNN that many of the Muslim Rohingya victims’ bodies had already been buried in accordance with “religious customs.”

Aung Zaw Hein, a resident of Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine state, told CNN that he had witnessed the bodies of toddlers, the elderly, and pregnant women lying on the ground after the hurricane. “I can’t control my tears,” he said.

People are struggling greatly, he continued, “because they don’t have food or a place to sleep.” “The population declines, becoming houseless, without shelter, and in some cases helpless. For the Rohingya people, the same situation has often occurred in our lives.

Additionally, Aung Zaw Hein said that he had led the Islamic funeral rites for eight victims.

According to state broadcaster MRTV, Min Aung Hlaing, the head of Myanmar’s junta, paid a visit to Sittwe to examine the extent of the damage and distribute aid to the city’s population.

“A significant death toll in the camps”
Rakhine, a largely desolate and remote region, has witnessed extensive political violence in recent years.

Since 2017, members of the targeted Muslim minority group known as the Rohingya have migrated into neighboring Bangladesh to escape a vicious and murderous crackdown by Myanmar’s military. Nearly a million of these stateless individuals are Rohingya.

Rakhine still has hundreds of thousands of Rohingya, most of whom are confined to camps under strong government control.

Aid agencies worry that Cyclone Mocha has been most severely impacted in these shoddy camps.

According to Brad Hazlett, president of the non-governmental group Partners Relief and Development, there has been “a large-scale loss of life in the camps.”

“While we are unable to give an exact figure, we are aware of one tiny community with which we have contact today and to which we have given toilets and hand water pumps during the past 12 months. At least 20 individuals lost their lives there and the hurricane completely demolished the village, according to him.

On May 15, 2023, after Cyclone Mocha made landfall in Sittwe, Myanmar’s Rakhine state, a man strolls past demolished buildings.
On May 15, 2023, after Cyclone Mocha made landfall in Sittwe, Myanmar’s Rakhine state, a man strolls past demolished buildings.
Images via Sai Aung Main/AFP/Getty
He continued, “Fatality numbers shared online vary significantly, and for the time being, my organization is unable to provide a precise breakdown, but we anticipate an increase in casualties.”

Confirming the numbers is difficult at this point because of the unreliable phone network, closed highways, and the loss of at least one concrete bridge, according to Hazlett. We’ve heard that a lot of people are still unaccounted for or could be hiding in the wrecked shelters.

The National Unity Government (NUG) reported on the situation on Tuesday, saying that people living in refugee camps in Sittwe perished in flooding caused by the typhoon. Aung Kyaw Moe, a Rohingya advisor for the NUG, tweeted that 400 people had died in Sittwe alone.

A coalition of deposed MPs, coup opponents, and members of ethnic minority groups make up NUG, which aspires to be recognized as Myanmar’s legitimate government. It uses members who are located abroad or acts covertly.

A second organization, the Arakan Civil Society Organization Network (or Arakan CSO Network), told CNN that it had launched rescue operations in the northern region of Rakhine state and that 400 people, including many children, had perished in a Sittwe “Muslim” camp.

On May 15, 2023, following the landfall of Cyclone Mocha, residents of Sittwe in Myanmar’s Rakhine state ride motorcycles past damaged utility lines.
On May 15, 2023, following the landfall of Cyclone Mocha, residents of Sittwe in Myanmar’s Rakhine state ride motorcycles past damaged utility lines.
Images via Sai Aung Main/AFP/Getty
Video captured wind gusts of over 200 kph (195 mph) churning Sittwe, destroying several homes, and leaving deadly bamboo and other wood debris strewn throughout settlements.

Additional destruction
According to the NUG, towns in Myanmar’s western Chin state experienced landslides brought on by severe rains that destroyed homes and buildings.

In addition, the NUG stated that communications have been disrupted or are down in cyclone-affected areas and that the number of casualties is “very likely to increase.”

It also stated that roughly 500,000 families required roofing materials, particularly tarpaulins, and that about one million people in Northern Rakhine state urgently needed emergency food and water.

In the report, which included before-and-after satellite images of the hardest-hit areas, it was said that it was imperative to give humanitarian assistance in the most damaged areas as quickly as possible, including Rakhine State, Sagaing, Magway, and Chin State.

The shadow government also claimed that substantial crop loss occurred in communities throughout Sagaing and in Magway, resulting in the flooding of around 32,300 acres of farmland.

“It is estimated that the cyclone has destroyed over 90% of the structures in (11) Townships throughout the entire Rakhine State.”

official repression
1.2 million people who were internally displaced due to ethnic strife were among the approximately 6 million people in the region who already required humanitarian aid, the UN’s humanitarian office (OCHA) warned as Cyclone Mocha intensified in the Bay of Bengal last week.

The Rohingya are seen by Myanmar’s military, which overthrew the government in a coup in 2022, as illegal Bangladeshi immigrants. The Rohingya respond that they have long since resided in Rakhine.

Following a violent murdering and burning campaign by the Myanmar military, an estimated 1 million Rohingya currently reside in what many consider to be the largest refugee camp in the whole world, located in Bangladesh.

The camp was once expected to be hit by Cyclone Mocha, but it was avoided when the storm made landfall farther down the coast.

In order to encourage their voluntary homecoming, some Rohingya Muslim refugees and Bangladeshi officials visited Myanmar’s Rakhine State. This photo was taken on May 5, 2023, in Teknaf, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.
Refugees from Rohingya demand citizenship and security upon their first visit to Myanmar.
According to Human Rights Watch, there are still an estimated 600,000 Rohingya in Rakhine who are “subject to government persecution and violence, confined to camps and villages without freedom of movement, and cut off from access to adequate food, health care, education, and livelihoods.”

Cyclone Giri, which made landfall in Myanmar in October 2010, was the most recent cyclone of such strength to do so. Giri caused more than 150 fatalities and damaged around 70% of Kyaukphyu. The UN estimates that during that cyclone, approximately 15,000 dwellings in Rakhine state were damaged.

Nearly 140,000 people were killed when Cyclone Nargis ravaged Myanmar’s low-lying Irrawaddy Delta in 2008.


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