Myanmar: Cyclone Mocha - Flash Update #4 (as of 15 May 2023)
15 May 2023
Communities have spent the day cleaning up and counting the cost of Extremely Severe Cyclone Mocha that smashed Myanmar’s western states and regions on Sunday and continues to bring heavy rain in some areas as a depression.
Mocha was one of the strongest cyclones ever to hit the country and has left a trail of devastation, particularly in the state capital, Sittwe.
Few houses have escaped damage in Sittwe and there is widespread destruction of flimsy bamboo longhouses in displacement camps.
Health, relief items, shelter, and water, sanitation, and hygiene needs are already being reported. Explosive ordnance risks are high in conflict-affected rural areas where landmines may have been shifted during flooding and where people have been on the move to safer areas.
Communications with partners on the ground was partially restored during the day but still remains limited after extensive damage to telecommunications towers. Water and power services have been badly interrupted all day with generators now the primary source of electricity for most people due to downed lines.
Humanitarian partners are working to start rapid needs assessments (RNAs) in the field on 16 May to confirm the magnitude of impact from the cyclone and the immediate assistance that is required. A priority will be assessing the damage in the following locations: Sittwe, Pauktaw, Rathedaung, Maungdaw, Ponnagyun, Kyauktaw.
Early reports have also started coming in of widespread flooding and needs in the Northwest – an area that is also heavily conflict-affected.
An urgent injection of funds is desperately needed to facilitate a full-scale response to the impact of the cyclone and subsequent flooding. To date, the US$764M Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) is only 10 per cent funded.
The Extremely Severe Cyclone Mocha crossed the coast between Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh and Kyaukpyu township, near Rakhine’s capital of Sittwe in Myanmar at lunchtime on 14 May.
Winds were estimated as high as 250 kmph.
Communications with teams on the ground are still limited but early reports suggest the damage is significant, particularly in Rakhine, and that needs across all communities will be high.
Extremely strong winds brought down power lines, uprooted trees, and damaged and destroyed houses. Storm surge knocked out bridges and inundated homes. In Sittwe, most housing is thought to have been damaged in some way and many flimsy long houses in IDP camps have been destroyed.
In addition to immediate NFI, shelter, and WASH needs, the affected population will require prompt emergency healthcare, including lifesaving and trauma care and continuous primary healthcare services (maternal and child healthcare and non-communicable diseases care). Psychosocial First Aid for affected people after the disaster is also critical. The potential for communicable disease outbreaks in affected areas is high, requiring close monitoring. Moreover, landmines and other explosive remnants of war pose risks to communities moving to safer areas or returning home. The ongoing flooding and landslides can dislodge or carry the devices to locations previously deemed safe.
On 15 May, the Rakhine State de facto authorities under Section 11 of the National Disaster Management Act declared all 17 townships in Rakhine to have been affected by the cyclone.
Affected communities have spent the day cleaning up the debris strewn across the area, especially in Sittwe which took a direct hit from the cyclone on Sunday.
Houses across Sittwe and other towns in Rakhine have lost roofs, walls and sheeting. Displacement camps and sites are particularly badly damaged.
Based on field staff observations in Sittwe, shelter and WASH assistance are priority needs across all communities. One partner reported significant damage to latrines and shelter in IDP sites in Kyauktaw and Ponnagyun townships. There are unconfirmed reports of people missing in some IDP camps in Sittwe township, including Basara, Dar Pai, and Thae Chaung IDP camp, which flooded heavily due to proximity to the coast. Three bridges near Dar Pai, Thae Chaung, and Thet Kae Pyin IDP camps have collapsed. Fishing boats were also smashed together during the cyclone.
Some of the IDPs are still staying in cyclone shelters near the camps, with some reports of injuries and needs for medical treatment. Those staying in temporary shelters, such as schools, require assistance.
Movement is challenging and debris clearance is ongoing. Heavy traffic was reported during the day due to large numbers of people returning to their Sittwe homes from inland areas, combined with debris on the roads. Local fire brigades and charity groups/volunteers were seen clearing streets in Maungdaw, Mrauk-U, and Sittwe townships.
Many people remain in evacuation shelters, although there are reports that families have started to return to their homes to assess the damage, including some 6,000 people in Mrauk-U who had been evacuated on 14 May. The Thein Nyo displacement site hosting around 2,860 IDPs in Mrauk-U was reportedly destroyed, along with 80 houses in the host community, according to local media reports. This is to be confirmed.
The Mytel phone network is reportedly working intermittently in Kyauktaw township, and reports from there indicate significant damage. Local media reported near total damage to some 260 houses in Oke Kyut village in Kyauktaw township. Also in Kyauktaw, 2 school buildings providing free education to more than 600 students were reportedly destroyed by the cyclone. This damage is to be confirmed.
In Minbya township, around 40 houses in Tha Yet Oke village were destroyed, according to local media.
Township authorities have reportedly been deployed to assess initial damage in villages in Rakhine.
Limited information has been received from the northern townships of Buthidaung and Maungdaw due to telecoms being down, where more than half of the shelters are either temporary or semipermanent, placing households at very high risk in case they were not able to reach evacuation centres. A major clean-up operation was underway in Maungdaw during the day according to partners, as the community attempted to clear fallen trees that were blocking roads. There are no reports of flooding the Maungdaw downtown area but the situation in the countryside is not yet known.
In Ponnagyun, the OCHA field team observed that most houses were collapsed and damaged in Kun Taung, Pa Day Thar, Sin Inn Gyi, and Ywar Thar Yar, including heavy damage to roofs. So far, there have been no reports of death or injuries there by local communities.