Cyclone Mocha with no exact death toll or damages yet

Myanmar Spring Chronicle – May 15 Scenes

MoeMaKa, May 16 2023

Cyclone Mocha with no exact death toll or damages yet

It has been more than 24 hours since Cyclone Mocha passed through the border of Myanmar and Bangladesh, but it is still not possible to collect accurate figures on how many people died and the extent of the damage caused by this cyclone.

According to the initial reports, there were deaths not only in Rakhine State but also in Mandalay Division and Shan State as a result of heavy rain hours before the storm made landfall. After the storm made landfall, many towns in Rakhine State suffered more deaths. As far as we know, the number of deaths is at least 10 outside Rakhine state, and there are already more than 10 confirmed deaths in towns in Rakhine. In a social media post, it was found that hundreds of refugees from the Dar Pai Rohingya refugee camp near Sittwe had lost their lives by being swept away by the floods and it has not yet been confirmed by separate news media.

Compared to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people due to Cyclone Nargis in May 2008, the worst natural disaster in the history of Myanmar, the death toll due to Cyclone Mocha is a very small number. However, as it was only more than 24 hours after the storm made landfall, the death toll numbers are not yet widely available. During the Cyclone Nargis incident, there were unexpectedly high human deaths, and the damage was large in Ayeyarwady and Yangon regions. During that period, there were no accurate censuses and freedom of assistance under the rule of the junta. Now, at the time of Cyclone Mocha, there are widespread armed conflicts in all parts of Myanmar, martial law, arbitrary arrests, killings, and imprisonments, making it difficult to gather information and provide assistance freely.

According to the information available recently, the most damage is in Rakhine state, and the towns of Sittwe, Kyauktaw, Rathedaung, Minbya, Mrauk-U, Gwa, Kyaukphyu, Thandwe, and Pauktaw have suffered a lot of damage. Currently, villages that have not yet been investigated by the news media, and villages along the path of the storm’s landfall in Chin State and Upper Magway Division, may continue to suffer casualties and damages.

If you look at Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine State, after the storm passed, you will see that almost all houses, offices, monasteries, and religious buildings have had their roofs blown off. It is seen that almost all the electricity poles have fallen, causing power outages; communication towers are broken; most of the communication networks are interrupted; wells and ponds used by the public to get drinking water have been damaged by storm surges; and people are in need of emergency food, drinking water, and medicine.

In addition to Sittwe, you will see that almost the entire town of Rathedaung and Kyauktaw in northern Rakhine State have been destroyed. The whole or part of the roof of every house and building was blown away.

Looking at these conditions, the need for shelter, housing, and food needs to be met urgently, and it is not yet clear how the military council, which is controlling the administration in Rakhine State, will solve these urgent needs.

News photos of military council leader Min Aung Hlaing arriving in the afternoon of the day after the typhoon and directing relief efforts were seen in the military council’s newspapers and television. In the event of a natural disaster, any organization has a humanitarian ethical responsibility not to seek political advantage and to do whatever it can to help the majority of people affected by natural disasters. However, it is a matter of doubt as to how correct the attitude will be in disaster relief by the military council in Rakhine State, a state where it has the least public support and where its strong military competitor, the Arakan Army (AA), is based.

After Rakhine State, the regions that are severely affected by the storm are Chin, Magway, and Sagaing. There have been some news reports that there are many ruins in villages such as Samee Village and Lailin Pi in the south of Chin State. How much damage has been done in the rest of Chin State, and how many casualties and damages have been caused in Saw and Gangaw townships in upper Magway Division, is still unknown.

When the storm was raining heavily and the creeks near the villages were rising, the military council column repeatedly raided the villages in Sagaing Region, where villages are usually destroyed and locals are killed by military council raids. It caused thousands of people to flee in some villages in Kani Township.

These reports show that the military council is not reluctant to conduct operations even in the face of a natural disaster and attack the armed defense forces in ambush, doing something that should not be done according to human ethics.