Mighty Cyclone Mocha makes landfall in Myanmar rips off roofs.webp

Mighty Cyclone Mocha makes landfall in Myanmar, rips off roofs and kills at least three people – The Associated Press

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) – Thousands of people huddled in monasteries, pagodas and schools for shelter on Sunday from a violent storm that hit the coast of Myanmar, ripping off roofs from buildings and killing at least three people.

The center of Cyclone Mocha made landfall near the township of Sittwe in Rakhine state, Myanmar, on Sunday afternoon, causing winds of up to 209 kilometers per hour, the Myanmar Meteorological Department said.

Myanmar’s military information bureau said the storm damaged homes, electrical transformers, cellphone towers, boats and lampposts in Sittwe, Kyaukpyu and Gwa townships. It said the storm also ripped off roofs from sports buildings in Cocos Islands, about 425 kilometers (264 miles) southwest of the country’s largest city, Yangon.

Rakhine media reported that streets and basements of homes in lower-lying areas of Sittwe were flooded. Much of the area is cut off from telephone and internet service after strong winds brought down cell towers.

More than 4,000 of Sittwe’s 300,000 residents have been evacuated to other towns and more than 20,000 people are taking refuge in sturdy buildings such as monasteries, pagodas and schools in the town’s highlands, said Tin Nyein Oo, who volunteers at emergency shelters in Sittwe.

Lin Lin, chairman of a local charity foundation, said earlier that there was not enough food at the Sittwe shelters after more people than expected arrived.

Titon Mitra, the UN Development Program representative in Myanmar, tweeted: “Mocha has landed. 2 million people at risk. Significant damage and casualties are to be expected. We stand ready to respond and require unimpeded access to all impacted communities.”

Multiple deaths from wind and rain were reported in Myanmar on Sunday morning. A rescue team from the country’s eastern Shan State announced on its Facebook social media page that it had recovered the bodies of a couple who were buried when a landslide caused by heavy rain rocked their home in Tachileik township. Local media reported that a man was crushed to death when a banyan tree fell on him in Pyin Oo Lwin township in the central Mandalay region.

Authorities in the Bangladeshi town of Cox’s Bazar, which lay on the storm’s predicted route, previously said they had evacuated about 1.27 million people, but by early afternoon it appeared the storm would mostly miss the country as it passed swung east, said Azizur Rahman, director of the Bangladesh Meteorological Department in Dhaka.

“The level of risk has greatly reduced in our Bangladesh,” he told reporters.

Strong winds and rain continued on the island of Saint Martin in the Bay of Bengal in the afternoon, but feared tidal waves did not materialize as the cyclone began crossing the Bangladesh coast at low tide, Dhaka-based TV station Jamuna reported.

UN agencies and aid workers in Bangladesh had deployed tons of dry food and dozens of ambulances with mobile medical teams in sprawling refugee camps housing more than a million Rohingya people fleeing persecution in Myanmar.

In May 2008, Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar with a storm surge that devastated populated areas around the Irrawaddy River Delta. At least 138,000 people died and tens of thousands of homes and other buildings were washed away.

Roxy Mathew Koll, a climate researcher at the Indian Institute for Tropical Meteorology in the city of Pune, said hurricanes in the Bay of Bengal were increasing at an accelerating rate, partly due to climate change.

Climate researchers say hurricanes can now store their energy for many days. Cyclone Amphan in East India also hit the country as a strong cyclone in 2020 and caused great devastation.

“As long as the oceans are warm and the winds are favorable, hurricanes maintain their intensity for a longer period of time,” Koll said.

Cyclones, huge storms known as hurricanes or typhoons in other parts of the world, are among the world’s most devastating natural disasters, especially when they hit densely populated coastal regions.