Thousands of Cyclone Mocha Victims ‘Abandoned’ in Myanmar Resistance Stronghold

By The Irrawaddy 18 May 2023

Victims of cyclone Mocha in Sagaing and Magwe regions and Chin State are struggling amid a communication breakdown and lack of humanitarian assistance from either the country’s military regime or international aid agencies.

Cyclone Mocha made landfall on Myanmar’s west coast in Rakhine State on Sunday with winds of up to 195 kilometers per hour (120mph), before crossing into neighboring Chin State and Sagaing and Magwe regions. On Wednesday, the regime said the cyclone killed 48 people across the country, without giving details.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said on Wednesday that aid agencies are ready to start field missions to gauge the full scope of the humanitarian situation as soon as access is granted, meaning they are still waiting for the regime’s approval to provide assistance.

Meanwhile, junta media reported that hundreds of bags of rice had been airlifted to Rakhine State’s capital Sittwe and a naval vessel carrying rice, communication equipment and other aid was expected to arrive late Wednesday.

But similar relief efforts had yet to be seen for Chin, Sagaing and Magwe as of Thursday. All three are anti-regime resistance strongholds targeted by a campaign of junta raids and arson attacks.

In Sagaing, four people were killed by the cyclone, according to the civilian National Unity Government (NUG).

Food and shelter are urgently needed for more than 2,000 residents from Sagaing’s Khin-U Township, where over 40 square kilometers have been flooded by the cyclone, according to Khin-U Information, a local assistance group. The residents are from six villages in western Khin-U where over 200 houses were torched by regime troops in the second week of May.

“They had fled to the forest to escape a junta raid a couple of days before the cyclone, but they weren’t able to return to their villages during the storm. They are now facing hardships and struggling to survive,” a Khin-U Information spokesperson told The Irrawaddy.

The Khin-U Township people’s administration, NUG, and local charity groups are currently assisting the residents. But no assistance had arrived from either international organizations or the regime, he said.

A resident of Pale Township in Sagaing region said that locals whose farms were flooded have received no help so far.

Like Sagaing Region, almost a dozen townships in neighboring Magwe Region suffered flooding following the cyclone, with rice fields and houses destroyed. Fifteen people were also killed in the storm, according to the NUG.

A member of Pakokku People’s Defense Force said they are providing aid to flood victims.

“However, international agencies and regime departments have not yet arrived to help,” he told The Irrawaddy.

Civilians in Chin State, where more than 1,400 houses were damaged in the cyclone Mocha, are also yet to see any help from international organizations or the regime, said Salai Htet Ni, a spokesperson for the Chin National Army (CNA).

He called on citizens from abroad and international agencies to deliver humanitarian aid as soon as possible, explaining the impending rainy season could worsen living conditions for Chin residents and make transport difficult.

Paletwa residents said tarpaulins are urgently needed for houses damaged by the cyclone.

The NUG said that as of Wednesday it had spent over US$ 30,000 for relief efforts in the five regions and states that were struck by the cyclone.