Rescuers early Monday evacuated about 1,000 people trapped by seawater 3.6 meters (12 feet) deep along western Myanmar’s coast after a powerful cyclone injured hundreds and cut off communications. Damage and six deaths have been reported but the true impact was not yet clear in one of Asia’s least developed countries.
Strong winds injured more than 700 of about 20,000 people who were sheltering in sturdier buildings on the highlands of Sittwe township such as monasteries, pagodas and schools, according to a leader of the Rakhine Youths Philanthropic Association in Sittwe.
He asked not to be named due to fear of reprisals from the authorities in the military-run country. Seawater raced into more than 10 low-lying wards near the shore as Cyclone Mocha made landfall in Rakhine state Sunday afternoon, he said. Residents moved to roofs and higher floors, while the wind and storm surge prevented immediate rescue.
“After 4 p.m. yesterday, the storm weakened a bit, but the water did not fall back. Most of them sat on the roof and at the high places of their houses the whole night. The wind blew all night,” the rescue group leader said. Water was still about 1.5 meters (5 feet) high in flooded areas later Monday, but rescues were being made as the wind calmed and the sun rose in the sky. He asked civil society organizations and authorities to send aid and help evacuate residents. Six deaths were reported by Myanmar media and rescue groups.
Several injuries were reported in neighbouring Bangladesh, which was spared the predicted direct hit. Mocha made landfall near Sittwe township with winds blowing up to 209 kilometers (130 miles) per hour, Myanmar’s Meteorological Department said. By midday Monday, it had weakened to a tropical depression, according to the India Meteorological Department. The State Administration Council issued disaster declarations for 17 townships in Rakhine state. High winds crumpled cell phone towers, but in videos collected by local media before communications were lost, deep water raced through streets and wind blew off roofs.