Myanmar Spring Chronicle – May 14 Scenes
MoeMaKa, May 15 2023
Natural disaster that is afflicting the country in the throes of war and troubles
The name “Cyclone Mocha” has become a word that people in many regions of Myanmar don’t want to mention and will remain as a traumatic word for decades. Events associated with this word are devastation, damage to houses and livelihoods, and loss of life.
After the natural disaster on May 2, 2008, the word “Cyclone Nargis” remained a scar in the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in the Ayeyarwady and Yangon regions for more than 15 years until now.
Now, in Rakhine State, Chin State, Magway, and Sagaing, the word Cyclone Mocha has come to mean that loved ones have been dragged away from families, physical injuries that cannot be healed, and low-level livelihoods have been hit hard to restore.
Like the pre-monsoon Cyclone Nargis in early May, Mocha has almost the same intensity or is slightly stronger than Nargis. Due to the fact that the area hit by Cyclone Mocha is not a low-lying area like the one hit by Cyclone Nargis, and that there was a certain amount of advance warning, there will not be as many casualties as with Cyclone Nargis. Rakhine, the region where the armed conflict started, and Chin State, the upper part of the Magway and Sagaing regions where the armed conflict is currently taking place, will suffer a lot of damages and losses.
On the evening of May 14, photos of the ruins in Rakhine State, where the storm first made landfall, began to appear on social media. The sight of a broken communication tower in the center of the town, the entrance gate of Sittwe Town in ruins, a middle school building with all its roofs blown off next to a city center road, some neighborhoods in Sittwe Town where the lower floors of houses are submerged due to the rising water by the river and the sea, the streets of the city where leaves are scattered in pieces due to the wind, pagodas and buildings such as the temple with all its roofs blown away show how severe the cyclone was
On the afternoon of May 14, in Sittwe Town, there were many messages on social media asking for help from people who were trapped in their homes due to the sudden rise of the tide from the sea along with the wind. Also the phone numbers of charities that you can call for help before the storm hits when they arrived in the afternoon, it was difficult to call them due to a communication network outage.
During a severe storm, there will certainly be many difficulties in doing rescue work.
As Sittwe is located on the seashore and at the mouth of the Kaladan River, many residents of Sittwe had fled by land towards Mrauk-U and Kyauktaw a day or two before the storm hit. There are also many survivors who have taken refuge in their homes or temples and schools in the city due to the cost of escape and communication.
It is obvious that the military council, which is known as the government politically and administratively, does not have a good plan and effective measures for such a natural disaster. Even in the normal situation in Rakhine, the public and the military council’s administration are in a separate state of conflict, so the military council is only performing rescue operations for show purposes, and it is not possible to release statistics on how many people have evacuated. Yesterday, it was announced that around 600,000 local people had been evacuated from areas that could be affected by the storm, but it is unclear how accurate this figure is, whether the evacuation was done with the support of the military council, or whether the evacuations of people on their own plans were added to the announcement.
According to the photos and videos that came out during and after the storm, many ruins can be seen in Sittwe, Mrauk-U, Minbya, Pauktaw, Maungdaw, Buthidaung, Kyauktaw, Kyaukphyu, and Gwa. It is certain that there will be a lot of damage to the country’s communication networks, health and education facilities, as well as individual and family damage.
Damages like those in Rakhine State are likely to appear in Chin State, as well as floods and landslides in the northern Magway and Sagaing regions, and more information may emerge in the afternoon of May 15.
We have also heard that reports of 70 to 90 percent house damage in villages in Rakhine State’s townships such as Pauktaw, Minbya, Kyaukphyu, etc. have started to emerge.
In some areas of Rakhine State, where the war broke out before the military took power, people who fled during the war and lived in temporary camps are now suffering the effects of the cyclone again. Damage to refugee camps in towns like Mrauk-U is seen on social media. There are those who escaped during the 2018–19 military and AA battles, and there are those who fled during the second round of fighting in mid-2022. Similar to the problems and difficulties of Rakhine State, people who fled war in less-developed Chin State, will have to suffer from the effects of the storm. Areas such as Gangaw Township in Upper Magway Region and Kalay Township in Sagaing Region are also likely to be affected by strong winds, floods, and landslides.
Even when a natural disaster strikes, there are cases where military attacks cannot be temporarily stopped, as seen in the news today. When the rains are heavy due to the impact of the cyclone and the ditches are full of water, thousands of people are fleeing due to the military council’s raid in Kani Township.
It is also seen that such a devastating cyclone will make it even more difficult for people with low living standards and people in areas where health and education care have declined significantly due to the civil war.
It is important for the people to help each other in order to recover from the damage and loss that they are facing, as well as for the political organizations that provide political leadership to put the public interest first and act. It is also important to be able to clearly understand that the common enemy is a natural disaster and an infectious disease disaster in the case of both calamities.