Myanmar port city cut off in Cyclone Mocha aftermath

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News Desk

Communications with Sittwe, home to around 150,000 people, were still down on (15 may) Monday.

Myanmar port city cut off in Cyclone Mocha aftermath Residents walk past fallen trees in Kyauktaw in Myanmar’s Rakhine state on May 15, 2023, after Cyclone Mocha crashed ashore.

A major Myanmar port city remained cut off from contact on Monday after a cyclone tore through the west of the country and neighbouring Bangladesh where it spared sprawling refugee camps.

Cyclone Mocha made landfall between Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh and Myanmar’s Sittwe packing winds of up to 195 kilometres (120 miles) per hour, in the biggest storm to hit the Bay of Bengal in over a decade.

By late Sunday the storm had largely passed, sparing refugee camps housing almost a million Rohingya in Bangladesh, where officials said there had been no deaths.

Communications with Sittwe, home to around 150,000 people, and which bore the brunt of the storm according to cyclone trackers, were still down on Monday.

The road to the city was littered with trees, pylons and power cables, AFP correspondents said, with vehicles full of rescuers and locals trying to reach the town and their relatives forming queues.

“We drove all the way through the cyclone Sunday and cut trees and pushed away pylons… but then the big trees blocked the road,” an ambulance driver trying to reach Sittwe told AFP.

He and others were using a chainsaw to cut through branches of trees blocking the road.

The storm crashed ashore on Sunday, bringing a storm surge and high winds that toppled a communications tower in state capital Sittwe, according to images published on social media.

Junta-affiliated media reported that the storm had put hundreds of base stations that connect mobile phones to networks out of action in Rakhine state.

“I want to go home as fast as I can because we don’t know the situation in Sittwe,” a man from the town told AFP, requesting anonymity.

“There is no phone line, there is no internet… I’m worried for my home and belongings.”

Junta chief Min Aung Hlaing had “instructed officials to make preparations for Sittwe Airport transport relief,” state media reported on Monday, without giving details on when relief was expected to arrive.

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