Yesterday, a Myanmar Junta report released says, the death toll from Cyclone Mocha has reached 145. The statement mentioned that out of the 145 dead, 24 were locals, 4 were soldiers and the rest of the 117 were “Bengalis” (name used by military to describe the Rohingyas in Myanmar).
Bright Islam (28), a Rohingya activist said, “The cyclone destroyed everything we had. We have nothing to eat, and people have to sleep on the road. Injured people don’t have access to medical treatment.”
He said he witnessed people drown in the flood water in Sittwe, “mostly children and older people”, and counted about 110 dead bodies when the waters cleared. “I cried because I was afraid, I could also be dead,” he said.
Habibullah, who only wanted to be known by one name, said his 55-year-old aunt died in the storm because she was too scared to leave her home in Dar Paing camp in Sittwe.“She didn’t expect that it would be that bad,” he said.
He said he had to leave her in her house while he helped others. After the cyclone, he found her body. “I am very sorry to leave her there. But I had no other choice. If we had early warning and precaution in time, she would still be alive.”
According to Anthea Webb, the UN World Food Programme’s deputy regional director for Asia and the Pacific, the cyclone caused extensive damage in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, with massive destruction to homes, roads, hospitals, schools, and telecommunications and power lines. Webb said,”There are at least 800,000 people in urgent need of emergency food assistance.”
Meanwhile, UN staff say they have been denied access to help thousands of Rohingya living in displacement camps in Myanmar. People living in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine state, said they estimated that about 90% of homes of Rohingya people had been destroyed and more than 100 people killed when winds of more than 150 miles an hour hit the region.
However, the refugee agency UNHCR said the Myanmar government has refused access to the camps in Sittwe, home to about 100,000 people. “As yet, UNHCR has not been granted access to carry out needs assessments.”
Ro Nay San Lwin, a Rohingya activist in Europe said he expected high casualties. He said early warning announcements of the cyclone made by the military through loudspeakers in the camps were “just for show” as no logistical support, shelters or transport, were provided and Rohingya were not allowed to leave the camps.
“People lost their lives because they had no freedom of movement. The junta has been committing serious international crimes against the Rohingya for many decades. Their aim is to eliminate the entire population from the country,” he added.
In Bangladesh, about 60,000 people were displaced and 30,000 homes damaged or destroyed in Cox’s Bazar district, where more than 1 million Rohingya live in refugee camps.
The Nayapara camp refugees had to face a terrible situation as they lost their homes last year on fire. The newly built houses are not strong enough to hold a cyclone like Mocha.
“Our block was already burned down and so the shelters were only light plastic and bamboo,” said Amir Hossain, whose shelter was damaged. “People were worried before the cyclone hit the camp. As soon as the strong winds started, most of the tarpaulin roofs were blown away and only the frames of the homes were left.
“People are struggling to rebuild again, we have not got the materials to rebuild the shelters. Some people are living in community centres and schools for now,” he said.
Rohingya Refugee Response, which coordinates humanitarian support for more than 900,000 refugees in Bangladesh, said 5,800 shelters were damaged and 400 destroyed. Health and education centres and water points were damaged by landslides. UNHCR said it has been providing emergency shelter and other services in Bangladesh.