Cyclone Mocha: Evacuations in Bangladesh, Kolkata-Port Blair flight takes a U-turntext_fields
Dhaka: As Cyclone Mocha is approaching with winds of up to 175 kilometres per hour, Bangladesh on Saturday began to evacuate Rohingya refugees from risky areas to community centres.
The rain that comes with the cyclone may also trigger landslides that can wash away camps built on hillsides. According to deputy refugee commissioner Shamsud Douza, all the Rohingyas in the camps are at risk. Thousands of volunteers are involved in moving the refugees to solid structures like schools.
Weather officials in Dhaka have classified the cyclone as "very severe" and Indian meteorological officials are calling it "extremely severe". It is the most powerful cyclone approaching Bangladesh and Myanmar in nearly two decades.
Azizur Rahman, the head of Bangladesh's Meteorological Department told AFP that Cyclone Mocha is the most powerful storm since Cyclone Sidr (2007). It killed over 3,000 people on Bangladesh's southern coast and cost billions of dollars in damage.
Mocha is expected to make landfall between Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh and Sittwe in Myanmar on Sunday morning.
This is where close to one million Rohingya refugees are living in flimsy camps made of tarpaulin and bamboo. The country's government does not allow the Rohingya people to build permanent concrete homes because they may perceive it as an encouragement to stay in Bangladesh forever and not return to their home country Myanmar. The refugee crisis began five years ago.
In Sittwe, people are carrying their possessions and heading to higher grounds. The town has about 150,000 people and all markets are now shut down with people seeking shelter in monasteries. Myanmar's junta authorities were supervising evacuations from villages along the Rakhine coast. Myanmar Airways International has suspended all flights to Rakhine till Monday, reported AFP.
On Friday, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) warned of a storm surge of 2-2.5 metres over the weekend that was likely to inundate low-lying areas of North Myanmar as well as parts of Bangladesh. It's a very dangerous cyclone and is associated with violent winds. There will be major impacts both ahead and after landfall for potentially hundreds of thousands of the world's most vulnerable people," said WMO spokesman Clare Nullis.
Cyclone Mocha is currently centred around Port Blair and it has triggered bad weather. A Port Blair-bound Vistara flight (UK747) returned to Kolkata.
Northeast India is likely to see heavy rainfall from May 13-16. The rest of the country is not likely to see significant weather change and IMD has issued a heatwave warning for Konkan, Madhya Maharashtra, Gujarat, West Rajasthan, West Madhya Pradesh, Vidarbha, Bihar, Odisha, Gangetic West Bengal, Coastal Andhra Pradesh, and Yanam till May 16.