Cyclone Mocha slammed into coastal areas of southeastern Bangladesh and Myanmar on Sunday, flooding the Burmese port city of Sittwe.
Several deaths were reported in Myanmar after the most powerful cyclone to hit the region in more than 15 years lashed their townships.
Packing winds of up to 210 kilometres per hour (130 miles), equivalent to a category 5 hurricane, the cyclone forced authorities to evacuate hundreds of thousands of people to shelters.
“It is now crossing Cox’s Bazar-North Myanmar coast. It (is) likely to move north-northeasterly direction and complete crossing Cox’s Bazar-North Myanmar coast near Sittwe by afternoon,” the Bangladesh meteorological department said.
It said the storm was reported to be uprooting trees and bringing heavy rain along the coast at the Bangladesh-Myanmar border.
The cyclone was expected to affect more than 2 million people in its direct path.
Rakhine State sees widespread flooding
Parts of Sittwe, the capital of Myanmar’s Rakhine state, were flooded and the ground floors of several buildings were underwater, a video posted on social media by a witness in the city showed.
An ethnic militia that controls swathes of Rakhine said a large number of structures in Sittwe and Kyauktaw had been damaged.
More than 4,000 Sittwe residents were evacuated ahead of Mocha’s arrival, while more than 20,000 people were moved to shelters, including monasteries, pagodas and schools, said Tin Nyein Oo, a relief worker in Sittwe.
Reports said that many of the shelters were damaged, and some were left without roofs.
“The whole northern Rakhine has suffered severe damage,” Arakan Army spokesperson Khine Thu Kha told Reuters news agency. “People are in trouble.”
Communication networks in Rakhine were also disrupted, the United Nations and local media said.
A rescue team from Myanmar’s eastern Shan state announced on its Facebook social media page that they had recovered the bodies of a couple who were buried when a landslide hit their house in Tachileik township.
Local media reported that a man was crushed to death when a banyan tree fell on him in Pyin Oo Lwin township in the central Mandalay Region.
Rohingya refugees at risk
In Bangladesh, authorities issued the highest danger alert for Cox’s Bazar, which is home to more than a million Rohingya refugees living in flimsy shelters.
Reports said some homes were damaged but no one was initially injured.
The UN development program representative in Myanmar tweeted that 2 million people are at risk and “we are ready to respond.
Mocha has made landfall. 2m people at risk. Damage and losses are expected to be extensive. We are ready to respond and will need unhindered access to all affected communities. #whatsHappeningInMyanmar @UNDPasiapac @UNDP pic.twitter.com/GPaC1BQSwQ
— titon (@TitonMitra) May 14, 2023
Authorities also warned that heavy rains could trigger landslides and cause severe damage in eight coastal districts of Bangladesh.
Earlier Sunday, the storm passed over Bangladesh’s Saint Martin’s Island, causing damage and injuring people.
More than 300,000 people have been shifted to safer locations in Bangladesh.
“Saving lives is our main priority,” said local disaster relief official Mijanur Rahman.
More than 1,500 cyclone shelters have been prepared in Bangladesh.
Aid workers have also stored tons of dry food and prepared dozens of ambulances for refugee camps.
This article first appeared on DW.