Cyclone Mocha battered Myanmar and southeastern Bangladesh on Sunday, sparing sprawling refugee camps, but brought a storm surge to swaths of western Myanmar, where communications were largely cut off.
Mocha made landfall between Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh and Sittwe in Myanmar, packing winds of up to 120 mph (195 km/h) as the strongest storm to hit the Bay of Bengal in more than a decade.
By late Sunday, the cyclone had largely passed and India’s weather bureau said it would weaken as it battered the rugged hills of Myanmar’s interior.
Some 400-500 makeshift shelters were damaged in camps housing nearly a million Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar, but there were no immediate reports of casualties.
In Teknaf, Bangladesh, volunteers emerged to remove fallen trees and other obstacles from roads. Disaster relief official Kamrul Hasan said the cyclone had not caused “major damage” in Bangladesh, adding that authorities had evacuated 750,000 people before the cyclone hit.
Communications with the port city of Sittwe were largely cut off after the cyclone. The streets of the city of about 150,000 people turned into rivers as the storm washed ashore, ripping the roofs off buildings and downing power lines. The wind ripped apart houses made of canvas and bamboo at a camp for Rohingya displaced persons in Kyaukphyu in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
Its residents were anxiously watching the rising tide, the camp’s leader, Khin Shwe, told the AFP news agency. “Now we are going to check if the sea water is rising at our place… if the sea water rises, our camp may be flooded,” he said.
In the town of Kyauktaw, nearly two hours’ drive inland, residents poured out after the storm onto rubble-strewn streets and began repairing damage to their property. “A power pole had crashed into a house and several buildings had lost their corrugated iron roofs. I am very scared because I never had an experience like this,” said Phyu Ma, 51. “I have never seen such a strong wind… I did not think this would happen. I thought only Sittwe would be hit.”
Thousands poured out of Sittwe on Saturday, boarding trucks, cars and tuk-tuks and heading for higher ground inland as forecasters warned of a storm surge of up to 11 feet (3.5 meters). “We are not well because we did not bring food and other things to cook,” said Maung Win, 57, who spent the night in a shelter in Kyauktaw. “We can only hope to get food from people’s donations.”