Hundreds of thousands evacuated as Bangladesh braces for Cyclone Mocha 

Besides winds of up to 210 kph, the cyclone may trigger storm surge, flash floods and landslides 

Moinul Hoque ChowdhuryShahariar
Published : 13 May 2023, 07:33 PM
Updated : 13 May 2023, 07:33 PM

Hundreds of thousands of people on the path of very severe cyclone Mocha have moved to storm shelters along the southeastern coasts of Bangladesh as meteorologists warn of storm surge, flash floods and landslides, along with winds of up to 210 kph.

More than 275,000 people arrived in the storm shelters until 9:30pm on Saturday in 15 coastal districts, including 200,000 in Cox’s Bazar near the Myanmar border, where the storm is expected to make landfall on Sunday, said Mijanur Rahman, director general at the Department of Disaster Management.

Cox’s Bazar and other districts in Chattogram and Barishal divisions started experiencing the peripheral effects of the storm on Saturday night as the Met Office asked the port and district of Cox’s Bazar to keep hoisted great danger signal 10, the highest alert level. A virtual signal 11 means a total communication breakdown.

The seaports of Chattogram and Payra, and the districts of Chattogram, Feni, Noakhali, Laxmipur, Chandpur, Barishal, Bhola, Patuakhali, Jhalakathi, Pirojpur, Barguna are under the great danger signal 8.

Under the peripheral effect of the storm and steep pressure gradient, the low-lying areas of Cox’s Bazar and Chattogram are likely to be inundated by a wind-driven surge of up to 12 feet above normal astronomical tide. The other coastal districts may experience storm surge of up to 7 feet above the normal level.

The Met Office also said Chattogram, Barishal and Sylhet divisions, especially the hilly areas of Cox’s Bazar, Bandarban, Rangamati, Khagrachhari and Cox’s Bazar, may experience landslides due to heavy rainfall under the influence of the storm.

In a special bulletin at midnight, the Meteorological Department said the storm system moved closer to the coasts, with its centre 410-530 kilometres from the seaports. The storm centre may cross the coasts between 9am and 3pm.

Secondary School Certificate or SSC exams scheduled for Sunday and Monday under Chattogram, Barishal, Cumilla, Jashore, technical and madrasa education boards have been postponed.

All educational institutions in the coastal areas will be closed on Sunday and the closure may be extended. Mostly, schools and colleges in these areas are used as storm centres, where people take shelter with their valuables and livestock.

Chattogram seaport and airport have suspended operations while river transport services across the country have been halted.

Gas and electricity consumers in parts of Bangladesh have been suffering due to a shortage caused by a halt on production at the floating LNG terminal in the Bay of Bengal amid the threat of the cyclone. The terminal supplies 700 million cubic feet of gas to the power stations and national grid daily.


Officials and locals said the most vulnerable to the effects of the storm are the residents of the Rohingya refugee camps and Saint Martin’s Island.

The authorities however, could not evacuate the Rohingya to storm shelters due to the huge number of refugees.

“As the camps are on hills, they may not face flash floods, but landslides. We’ve asked the volunteers to keep in mind the risks of landslides while working in the camps. We don’t have the capacity to take 1.2 million Rohingya refugees to storm shelters,” said State Minister for Disaster Management and Relief Enamur Rahman.

Mizanur Rahman, the refugee repatriation and relief commissioner, said they planned to relocate some refugees, who live in areas vulnerable to landslides. “In the 33 camps, 3,300 volunteers will work in coordination with the government and non-government organisations.”

Abu Sufian, head of the Leda camp in Teknaf, said the Red Crescent Society, law-enforcing agencies, and NGO workers held meetings with them over the situation. “Everyone is being alerted. Landslides will put the lives of a huge number of refugees at risk. Fear has spread among those residing in the risky hills.”

Thousands of residents along with all the tourists left St Martin’s Island on Friday before waterway transport services were suspended. Many social media users said some residents wanted to leave the island on Saturday but no boat departed it.

Muhammad Kamruzzaman, chief executive of Teknaf Upazila administration, said people should not try to cross the sea as it started to become rough.

“Besides the government structures, we’re using the multistoried hotels and resorts as storm shelters for the islanders. We have stocked 10 days of food and water.”

State Minister Enamur said around 8,500 islanders were taken to the storm shelters.

Akter Kamal, a member of St Martin’s union council, said they even forced people to leave home and take shelter in the hotels and resorts.


Mocha has gained strength significantly to become very powerful, but meteorologists said it is unlikely to turn into a supercyclone packing wind of over 220 kilometres per hour. They think the storm may bring wind of up to 200 kph during the landfall.

Still, the damaging power of the storm should not be underestimated, said Meteorologist Md Abul Kalam Mollick.

Speaking at an emergency press conference in Dhaka, he said Mocha would be as powerful as Sidr, which caused nearly 3,500 deaths in 2007.

“The difference will be that Sidr hit Bangladesh’s central coasts while Mocha will strike from the side.”