DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Rescuers on Monday evacuated about 1,000 people trapped by seawater 3.6 meters (12 feet) deep along Myanmar’s western coast after a powerful typhoon injured hundreds and cut communications. Six deaths have been reported, but the true impact is not yet clear in one of the least developed countries in Asia.
Strong winds injured more than 700 people out of some 20,000 people who were sheltering in more solid buildings in the highlands of Sittwe town, such as monasteries, temples and schools, according to the commander of the Rakhine Youth Charity Sittwe. He asked not to be named for fear of reprisals from the authorities in the military-run country.
He said seawater penetrated more than 10 low-lying berths near the shore as Cyclone Mocha made landfall in Rakhine State on Sunday afternoon. Residents moved to roofs and upper floors, while winds and storms prevented immediate rescue.
After 4 o’clock yesterday evening, the storm weakened a bit, but the waters did not recede. Most of them sat on their rooftops and hilltops all night. The rescue group leader said the wind blew all night.
The water was still about 1.5 meters high in the flooded areas later on Monday, but rescues were carried out as the winds calmed and the sun rose higher in the sky. He called on civil society organizations and the authorities to send aid and help evacuate residents.
Myanmar media and rescue groups reported six deaths. Several casualties were reported in neighboring Bangladesh, which escaped the expected direct hit.
Myanmar’s meteorological department said Mocha Island made landfall near the town of Sittwe with winds of up to 209 kilometers (130 miles) per hour. By midday Monday, it had weakened to a tropical depression, according to the Indian Meteorological Department.
The State Board has issued disaster declarations for 17 townships in Rakhine State.
High winds knocked down cellphone towers, but in videos local media collected before communications were lost, deep water raced through streets and winds blew off roofs.
Myanmar’s military information office said the storm destroyed homes and electrical transformers in the towns of Sittwe, Kyawkpyo and Goa. It said roofs had collapsed in the Coco Islands, about 425 kilometers (264 miles) southwest of Yangon, the country’s largest city.
Volunteers said earlier that shelters in Sittwe did not have enough food after more people reached out for help.
Mocha was largely spared by the Bangladeshi city of Cox’s Bazar, which was initially in the expected path of the storm. The authorities have evacuated hundreds of thousands of people before the cyclone deflected east.
Inamur Rahman, a Bangladeshi government official, said the damage was still being assessed, but around 2,000 homes had been destroyed and another 10,000 damaged in St. Maarten Island and Teknaf in Cox’s Bazar district.
He said there were no reports of deaths.
The Prothom Allo newspaper reported that about a dozen people were injured on the island of St. Martin.
UN agencies and aid workers in Bangladesh have stockpiled tons of dry food and dozens of ambulances in refugee camps housing more than a million Rohingya Muslims who have fled persecution in Myanmar.
In May 2008, Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar with a storm wave that devastated populated areas around the Irrawaddy River Delta. At least 138,000 people were killed and tens of thousands of homes and other buildings were destroyed.
Cyclones in the Bay of Bengal are rapidly becoming more intense, partly due to climate change, said Roxy Mathew Kaul, a climatologist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology in Pune..
Climate scientists say hurricanes can now hold power for several days. Cyclone Amphan in eastern India in 2020 continued to travel overland as a powerful cyclone and cause widespread destruction.
“As long as the oceans are warm and the winds are favorable, hurricanes will retain their strength for much longer,” Cole said.
Tropical cyclones, which are called typhoons or typhoons in other areas, are among the world’s most destructive natural disasters when they strike densely populated coastal areas.
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