Rakhine Residents Evacuate as Cyclone Mocha Approaches

By The Irrawaddy 12 May 2023

The global disaster agency has issued a red alert for Myanmar as Cyclone Mocha barrels towards states where hundreds of thousands have been displaced by the military’s crackdown.

Residents of coastal areas in Rakhine have been evacuating from their homes since Tuesday as Cyclone Mocha heads towards the western state.

The Department of Meteorology and Hydrology forecasts the cyclone will make landfall in coastal areas of Kyaukphyu Township on Sunday, with wind speeds reaching 90 to 100 miles per hour.

The Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (GDACS) issued a red alert for Myanmar after the deep depression intensified into a cyclone. It warns that about two million people in Rakhine State and Sagaing and Magwe regions could be exposed to the storm.

It also predicts a “high humanitarian impact” among the already vulnerable populations of these regions.

The number of people displaced by the junta’s military crackdown in Sagaing and Magwe totals 624,000 and 124,400, respectively, according to the International Red Cross.

Junta troops have been attacking and burning villages in the two regions as part of their “four-cuts” strategy to quell resistance strongholds.

In Rakhine State, over 400 residents of Ngapyi Island in Pauktaw Township are taking shelter at the Kyein Kwe Maw village monastery, said village administrator U Than Htay.

“Over 300 people arrived at our village monastery on May 10. More people arrived on May 11,” U Than Htay told The Irrawaddy. “We have also made as many preparations as we can in our village.”

Residents of Thaekhon Island, opposite the Rakhine State capital of Sittwe, have also abandoned their homes for Pauktaw and Sittwe towns. Meanwhile, fishermen have moored their trawlers in Sittwe to protect them from the storm.

In Sittwe, shops are shifting their stock to safe places, and prices of certain goods have gone up, said local civil society organization member U Soe Naing.

Authorities are also issuing warnings about the impending cyclone in Kyauktaw, said former Rakhine State lawmaker U Poe San.

“Fire engines are driving around wards and warning about the storm. Town residents are on the alert,” U Poe San told The Irrawaddy on Thursday.

Authorities have also issued storm alerts in Chin State’s Paletwa which borders northern Rakhine, said Paletwa resident Ko Htan Paing.

“Locals know about the storm from weather reports on the radio. The fire service department has also urged people to fortify their houses and churches. But people haven’t prepared much,” he told The Irrawaddy.

The GDACS forecasts the storm will reach a maximum sustained wind speed of up to 100 miles per hour by Sunday, when it will likely make landfall between Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh and Kyaukphyu, affecting over 930,000 people in Rakhine.

Meteorologists forecast the cyclone will cut a path between Sittwe and Rathedaung, which lies 40 miles to the south of the state capital. Townships at risk of storm damage are Sittwe, Rathedaung, Buthidaung, Maungdaw, Myebon, Ponnagyun and Mrauk-U.