Bangladesh Evacuations Ahead Of Very Severe Cyclone Mocha

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The heaviest rains of the year have triggered flooding in parts of Bangladesh. On Saturday, the most powerful cyclone barreled toward the country and neighboring Myanmar in nearly two decades. The cyclone, which was packing winds of up to 175 kilometers per hour (109 miles per hour), has been dubbed Mocha, and meteorological officials in Dhaka classed it as “very severe,” with their Indian counterparts calling it “extremely severe.”

It is expected to land on Sunday morning between the southern Bangladeshi coastal district of Cox’s Bazar and Kyaukpyu on the western coast of Myanmar’s Rakhine state. The storm is expected to cause a wind-propelled surge 8-12 feet higher than the normal astronomical tide, flooding low-lying areas and destroying shelters.

A million members of the stateless Rohingya community who fled a military crackdown in Myanmar last year live in sprawling camps in Cox’s Bazar. Many live in flimsy bamboo and tarpaulin tents perched on hilly slopes where landslides are common. The UN says it’s doing its best to protect the refugees, but some say they are frightened and uncertain of what will happen.

The camps are set to be hit by the highest winds of any cyclone in Bangladesh’s history, and refugee leaders have been instructing their communities to move from “risky areas” like hills into community centers inside the camps. One official at the Teknaf Leda Development Committee, which administers the township of Teknaf in the Cox’s Bazar district, told BenarNews that residents living on the hills had been asked to leave their shelters and take refuge in schools and distribution centers within the camps. He added that pregnant women and children were being given priority.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people on an island in the Bay of Bengal have been evacuated, and locals on the mainland are boarding up their homes to protect them from rising water levels. In addition, the government has advised all fishing boats, ships, and trawlers to stay out of the central and northern Bay of Bengal and the north Andaman Sea until further notice.

The cyclone is moving north-northeastwards, with its center located around 600 miles (1,100km) southwest of Cox’s Bazar and 580 miles (930km) southwest of Sittwe in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. The central Bay of Bengal has seen several extreme cyclonic events, including Cyclone Sidr in 2007, which killed over 3,000 people and caused billions of dollars in damage.

The cyclone is forecast to weaken slightly from Sunday morning before crossing the coasts of both countries, but it is likely to remain dangerously strong. As a result, India’s Meteorological Department has advised all ships, boats, and trawlers to only venture into the region until further notice. The India Coast Guard has also advised fishermen to avoid the open waters. It has warned that solid currents could sweep away any person straying into the sea and may drown.

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