Cyclone Mocha slammed the coastlines of Bangladesh and Myanmar, affecting millions of people. Learn more about the powerful storm and how to help survivors through community-led relief efforts.
1. Cyclone Mocha was one of the strongest storms to hit the Bay of Bengal in more than a decade.
Cyclone Mocha made landfall on the northwestern coast of Myanmar on Sunday with winds as strong as a Category 5 storm. Communications to coastal areas have been cut, and early reports say the damage is extensive. At least 148 people in Rakhine were killed by the storm, but unconfirmed reports put the death toll much higher. According to news reports, at least 400 people have died, and many more are still missing.
Cyclone Mocha formed in the Bay of Bengal last Thursday, intensifying with sustained winds of 161 mph and gusts as strong as 195 mph.
Myanmar’s meteorological department reported the storm pounded through the country at 130 mph. The Bangladeshi meteorological department recorded a maximum sustained wind speed of 120 mph, with even stronger gusts and squalls.
In preparation for Cyclone Mocha, airports were closed, fishermen were ordered to suspend their work, and 1,500 shelters were set up for people from vulnerable areas to take cover in safer places.
Source: BBC + CNN + VOA + CBS News + Reuters + ABC News
Help people affected and displaced by Cyclone Mocha by donating to GlobalGiving’s Cyclone Mocha Relief Fund.
2. More than 1 million refugees were caught in the storm.
Although the cyclone did not make landfall in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar where 1 million members of the Rohingya community live in the world’s largest refugee settlement, hundreds of makeshift shelters there were ripped apart. Bangladesh’s government had evacuated 750,000 people ahead of the storm, but Rohingya refugees are not allowed to leave the camps or build permanent structures. When the cyclone hit, refugees took shelter in the bamboo structures and other community shelters within the camps. Authorities estimate that 1,300 shelters and 16 mosques and learning centers were damaged by the winds. Fallen trees and landslides have caused more damage.
Before the cyclone, food rations for Rohingya people in Cox’s Bazar had been reduced due to funding cuts, and 16,000 refugees had lost their homes in a devastating fire in March. Concerns extend to the 30,000 Rohingya refugees on the flood-prone island facility called Bhasan Char in the Bay of Bengal. In the Rohingya camp of Thet Kae Pyin, about 95% of the shelters were swept away, and at least 400 Rohingya people are believed to have died.
According to the United Nations, about 6 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance in Myanmar’s Rakhine State and across the country’s northwest, with 1.2 million people displaced. An estimated 3.2 million people will need humanitarian aid as a result of the storm.
Source: BBC + CNN + Al Jazeera
3. Landslides, floods, and thunderstorms are hindering rescue efforts.
Myanmar’s military has declared Rakhine State a natural disaster area. Heavy rains, strong winds, and a storm surge were recorded across low-lying areas of the region. Residents reported Cyclone Mocha destroyed up to 95% of Rakhine State’s capital, Sittwe. Electricity and wireless connections were disrupted across Sittwe. By late Sunday, the storm had largely passed Bangladesh, but landslides, floods, and thunderstorms are still hitting the country.
In anticipation of the disastrous impact, aid agencies, disaster response teams, and more than 3,000 local volunteers trained in disaster preparedness and first aid in Bangladesh and Myanmar were on call. But the preparedness measures are being called into question. In areas of Myanmar where armed resistance groups operate, including Chin, Sagaing, and Magway, many locals feared military scrutiny if they participated in cyclone preparations or volunteered for relief efforts.
The UN’s humanitarian assistance office said the “ongoing wild weather” and communication interruptions have made it difficult to assess the full magnitude of the disaster. They also warn that landmines may have shifted during the cyclone due to heavy flooding. Several areas remained cut off on Wednesday as collapsed bridges, downed trees, and flooded streets, obstructed access.
Source: BBC + Al Jazeera + The Guardian + CBS News
4. The hardest-hit communities aren’t receiving vital aid.
Myanmar’s military junta is preventing humanitarian access to some communities in western Rakhine devastated by Cyclone Mocha. On Sunday, international aid groups were still waiting for the government’s authorization to enter parts of the state or distribute emergency relief supplies.
In February 2021, the junta seized control of Myanmar in a military coup. Many townships in cyclone-affected areas are now occupied by armed resistance groups. The government cut off internet access to these areas, further limiting communication and relief efforts after Cyclone Mocha. An estimated 5.4 million people in Rakhine and the northeast were in the storm’s path.
Myanmar’s Meteorological Department expects this year’s monsoon to enter the southern part of the country within the next few days and relief efforts have reported shortages in materials to rebuild houses. With the months of near-constant rainfall, communities are in urgent need of shelter, food, drinking water, and medicine.
Source: CBS News + Al Jazeera + CNN + ABC News
Help people affected by the cyclone by donating to GlobalGiving’s Cyclone Mocha Relief Fund.
5. Tropical cyclones like Mocha are increasing in strength.
The strength of tropical cyclones affecting countries in East and Southeast Asia has increased dramatically in recent decades. In less than 50 years, storms have lasted 2-9 hours longer and impacted 18-118 miles farther inland than ever previously recorded. Scientists predict the destructive power of these disasters could double by the end of the century.
An overwhelming amount of evidence drawn from recent research links human-caused global warming to these more destructive storms. The gradual increase in temperature caused by the climate crisis creates the ideal conditions that feed cyclones, causing them to rapidly intensify.
With better forecasting and preparedness measures like evacuation planning, communities have been able to reduce the death toll from cyclones and other disasters. But as powerful storms like Cyclone Mocha become more frequent and more severe, the impacts of displacement, destruction, and the loss of livelihoods remain significant.
Source: CNN + Frontiers + Al Jazeera + BBC
6. GlobalGiving partners are already on the ground helping people affected by the disaster access food, shelter, and other emergency services.
GlobalGiving’s Disaster Response Team is working with responding partners to meet the immediate needs of survivors of Cyclone Mocha. Once urgent needs are met, the GlobalGiving Cyclone Mocha Relief Fund will transition to support community-led, long-term recovery efforts as needed.
Source: GlobalGiving Cyclone Mocha Relief Fund
7. Cash is the best way to help people in need during a disaster like Cyclone Mocha.
Why? Survivors’ needs vary greatly throughout the life cycle of recovery. Some will require financial support, medical care, and psychological assistance years later. You can learn more about the importance of cash donations in this infographic.
Source: GlobalGiving + USAID Center for International Disaster Information
Help the communities hit hardest by Cyclone Mocha through GlobalGiving and fuel community-led recovery.
Featured Photo: A woman surveys the damage caused to her home by Cyclone Mocha at Saint Martin island in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, Monday, May 15, 2023 by AP Photo/Al-emrun Garjon
Note: This article was originally published at 7:29 p.m. on May 15, 2023 and last updated at 2:32 p.m. on May 22, 2023.