Myanmar's National Unity Government (NUG) — a group of lawmakers living in exile who oppose the junta that seized full control in a 2021 military coup — and representatives of ethnic minority groups have said that at least 200 people were killed by the storm
BU MA (Myanmar) — The death toll in cyclone-hit Myanmar rose to at least 81 on Tuesday, according to local leaders, officials and state media, as villagers tried to piece together ruined homes and waited for aid and support.
Mocha made landfall on Sunday with winds of up to 195 kilometres per hour, downing power pylons and smashing wooden fishing boats to splinters.
The storm’s high winds and heavy downpours destroyed hundreds of homes and shelters across Myanmar and toppled trees, power and communication lines, with most of the damage reported in Rakhine, an area home to an estimated 1.2 million Rohingya Muslims. The Muslim minority has been persecuted by successive Myanmar governments, which have refused to recognise the Rohingyas as citizens of Myanmar.
At least 46 people died in the Rakhine state villages of Bu Ma and nearby Khaung Doke Kar, inhabited by the persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority, local leaders said reporters at the scene.
Thirteen people were killed when a monastery collapsed in a village in Rathedaung township north of Rakhine’s capital Sittwe, and a woman died when a building collapsed in a neighbouring village, according to Myanmar state broadcaster MRTV.
“There will be more deaths, as more than a hundred people are missing,” said Karlo, the head of Bu Ma village near Sittwe.
Nearby, Aa Bul Hu Son, 66, said prayers at the grave of his daughter, whose body was recovered on Tuesday morning. “I wasn’t in good health before the cyclone, so we were delayed in moving to another place,” he said.
“While we were thinking about moving, the waves came immediately and took us.” “I just found her body in the lake in the village and buried her right away. I can’t find any words to express my loss.”
Other residents walked the seashore searching for family members swept away by a storm surge that accompanied the cyclone, agency correspondents said.
Nine people died in Dapaing camp for displaced Rohingya near Sittwe, its leader said, adding the camp was cut off and lacked supplies.
“People cannot come to our camp because bridges are broken… we need help,” he said. One person was killed in Ohn Taw Chay village and six in Ohn Taw Gyi, local leaders and officials said.
State media had reported five deaths on Monday, without offering details.
Mocha was the most powerful cyclone to hit the area in more than a decade, churning up villages, uprooting trees and knocking out communications across much of Rakhine state.
China said it was “willing to provide emergency disaster relief assistance”, according to a statement on its embassy in Myanmar’s Facebook page.
Victims cut off by alleged aid “blockade”
Myanmar’s National Unity Government (NUG) — a group of lawmakers living in exile who oppose the junta that seized full control in a 2021 military coup — and representatives of ethnic minority groups have said that at least 200 people were killed by the storm in Myanmar, according to CBS News.
“The number of confirmed deaths is 200 and more than 200 others are missing,” Aung Kyaw Moe, NUG’s Advisor at the Ministry of Human Rights, told CBS News.
Several areas in Myanmar remained cut off on Wednesday, several days after the cyclone made landfall, due to collapsed bridges, washed away roads, fallen trees and flooded streets. Emergency aid still had not reached the worst affected areas, and aid agencies warned that could result in more deaths.
The National Unity Government accused the ruling junta of blocking aid agencies from going into the Rakhine region.
“No aid agency is able to deliver aid because of the military blockade,” the NUG’s Moe told CBS News on Wednesday.
There have even been reports of the military attacking Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine as the storm approached, forcing thousands of people to flee their homes.
‘No one has come to ask’
The United Nations refugee office said it was investigating reports that Rohingya living in displacement camps had been killed in the storm.
It was “working to start rapid needs assessments in hard-hit areas” of Rakhine state, it added.
Widely viewed as interlopers in Myanmar, the Rohingya are denied citizenship and healthcare, and require permission to travel outside their villages in western Rakhine state. Many others live in camps after being displaced by decades of ethnic conflict in the state.
In neighbouring Bangladesh, officials said that no one had died in the cyclone, which passed close to sprawling refugee camps that house almost one million Rohingya who fled a Myanmar military crackdown in 2017.
“Although the impact of the cyclone could have been much worse, the refugee camps have been severely affected, leaving thousands desperately needing help,” the UN said as it made an urgent appeal for aid late Monday. — AFP (With media inputs)
Cover photo: A Rohingya woman sits by her destroyed house at Ohn Taw Chay refugee camp in Sittwe, Rakhine state, Myanmar on May 16, 2023, in the aftermath of Cyclone Mocha’s landfall. — AFP/Getty