Cyclone Mocha has battered the coastal areas of Cox’s Bazar, crushing thousands of homes under trees it uprooted and blowing away Rohingya shanties with a wind speed of up to 147 kph when it made landfall.
The authorities estimate 334,000 people have been affected by the storm as the peripheral effects of the powerful storm could be felt in the resort town, Teknaf Upazila, Saint Martin’s Island and other parts of the coastal district on Sunday morning.
The wind and rains intensified in the afternoon and brought devastation for over an hour after 4pm, damaging at least 12,500 homes in Cox’s Bazar, officials said.
Reports of destruction started pouring in after 5pm as the storm weakened into a land deep depression over Myanmar’s Sittwe.
The district authorities said mostly tin-made houses and mud huts were damaged by the storm. Shah Porir Dwip and St Martin’s islands suffered extensive damage.
No casualties were reported as hundreds of thousands of people took refuge in the storm shelters.
Bibhishan Kanti Das, additional district magistrate and in-charge of a control room opened by the local authorities for the storm, said 10,469 homes were damaged partially and 1,022 huts were completely destroyed in the mainland.
Cox’s Bazar Deputy Commissioner Muhammad Shaheen Imran said the local representatives reported around 1,200 homes were damaged. Homes were damaged also in Shah Porir Dwip.
ROHINGYA SUFFERINGS WORSEN
In the 33 refugee camps, thousands of shanties made of bamboo and tarpaulin were blown away, said Shamsud Douza, additional commissioner of refugee relief and repatriation. Other structures belonging to several non-government organisations were also damaged.
“Some of the homes have been flattened. Some need repair. It’ll take some time to assess the damage,” he said.
Although the storm has stopped, heavy rains may trigger landslides in the hilly camps. “The volunteers are still on alert there,” said Shamsud Douza.
The government and international organisations said adequate food and drinking water were ensured for the locals and the refugees.
On the other side of the border, the Rohingya were starving after they were forced onto higher grounds by the authorities without any prior notice and food, reported Reuters news agency.
Ahead of the storm, the World Food Programme said it was preparing food and relief supplies that could help more than 400,000 people in Rakhine and surrounding areas for a month.
Storm surges whipped up by the powerful cyclone moving inland from the Bay of Bengal inundated the Myanmar port city of Sittwe in Rakhine. Hundreds of thousands of the Muslim Rohingya minority remain in Myanmar's Rakhine state, where many are confined to camps separated from the rest of the population.
SIGH OF RELIEF
Mocha became as strong as Sidr, which claimed thousands of lives in 2007, sparking fears of similar destruction, but the latest storm weakened before landfall.
The highest wind speed recorded during the landfall was 147 kph in St Martin’s Island, according to Azizur Rahman, a director at the Bangladesh Meteorological Department. It took about 15 hours for the entire system to move over land.
Myanmar appears to have borne the direct impact of Mocha, as winds of up to 210 kph ripped away tin roofs and brought down a communications tower, sparing Bangladesh and the refugee camps, reported Reuters.
Meteorologists said the cyclone hit the coasts during low tide, which kept storm surges from becoming as dangerous as feared by the authorities.
State Minister for Disaster Management and Relief Enamur Rahman credited evacuations and early preparations for the lower-than-feared damage.
“The management this time was the best in the past five years – without any loopholes,” he said.
Fears of landslides in the hilly regions still persist due to heavy rainfall.
In Dhaka and other parts of Bangladesh, as people watched news and browsed social media anxiously, no reports of casualties brought a sigh of relief, along with a much-needed respite from a heatwave.
The seaport and Shah Amanat International Airport in Chattogram are expected to become fully operational on Monday morning after closures due to the storm on Saturday. River transport services across the country will also resume on Monday morning.
The authorities suspended SSC and equivalent exams scheduled for Monday under all education boards due to the cyclone.
The announcement followed the suspension of Sunday’s exams across six education boards. No further exam suspension was announced.
But it may take days for the crisis of gas and power to ease after a halt on production of gas at the floating LNG terminal in Cox’s Bazar, said State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid.
With the two units of the terminal sent deep into the sea before the storm, the gas supply has been cut off by one-fourth of the usual time.
The terminal contributes 733 million cubic feet of gas to 2,870 MMcf produced daily.
There was no gas in most of Chattogram on Sunday and the situation may continue for a week, distributors said. Parts of Dhaka and other regions were also hit by a gas crisis.
As nearly half the power stations in Bangladesh depend on gas, the Power Development Board said the supply disruption has cut electricity production by up to 2,000 MW daily, causing frequent outages in large parts of the country.