The huge cyclone Mocha, with wind speeds of up to 54 meters per second, has reached the coastline of Bangladesh. The cyclone has uprooted trees and brought heavy rain. Along the path of the cyclone, hundreds of thousands of refugees are living in temporary tents.
Mohammad Sayed, a resident of the Nayapara refugee camp, describes their vulnerable situation.
– Our camp houses, which are constructed from bamboo and tarpaulins, can be blown away in soft, light winds.
He also mentions their concerns about the lack of adequate protection measures.
– The schools that are designated as cyclone shelters (…) are not strong shelters that can withstand the wind of a cyclone. We are afraid.
The authorities have evacuated hundreds of thousands of people from the areas expected to be most affected. From the area around Cox’s Bazar alone, the site of the world’s largest refugee camp, more than a million people have been displaced, according to official reports. As of Sunday morning, no heavy rain had yet fallen in the area.
Bangladesh, home to more than 160 million people, has set up over 1,500 cyclone shelters in anticipation of the storm. The country’s navy announced that 21 ships, patrol aircraft and helicopters are standing by for rescue and relief operations.
Meanwhile, neighboring Myanmar, which is also in the cyclone’s path, reported several deaths due to wind- and rain-induced landslides.
Titon Mitra, the United Nations Development Program’s representative in Myanmar, expressed serious concern on Twitter, where he wrote:
“Mocha has reached land. Two million people are at risk. We expect extensive damage and loss. We are ready to respond and must have unhindered access to all affected areas.”
Save the Children raised concerns about the safety and health of about half a million children living in the Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar, as well as another million children in the region. Onno van Manen, the organization’s country director for Bangladesh, said in a press release:
“Given the living conditions and inadequate shelter facilities in the Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar, Cyclone Mocha poses a threat to many lives.”
The Rohingya are a Muslim minority group that was driven out by the Myanmar military in 2017. Around one million Rohingya are now living in camps in Bangladesh, near the border with Myanmar, in very difficult conditions. The Bangladeshi authorities have issued a ban on refugees building permanent homes, out of concern that they would settle permanently in Bangladesh instead of returning to Myanmar.