Disasters & Accidents

Bangladesh shuts ports, evacuates thousands as Cyclone Mocha approaches

Dhaka, May 13 (EFE).- Operations at seaports and airports on Bangladesh’s east coast were suspended on Saturday ahead of the arrival of severe cyclone Mocha, even as authorities sped up the evacuation of thousands of people from coastal areas, which also host a large number of Rohingya refugees.

Omar Faruk, secretary of the Chittagong Port Authority, which handles about 90 foreign trade operations of the country, said they have suspended operations and all ships in the port were sent to outer anchorage.

“The operation of the port will remain suspended until the situation becomes normal again,” he told EFE.

So far, 32,273 people of the southeastern Cox’s Bazar district have been evacuated to 576 shelters, Mohammad Mahbub Majumder, the head of the cyclone control room in the area, told EFE.

Cox’s Bazar houses the Kutupalong Rohingya refugee camp, the largest in the world that houses nearly a million members of the persecuted minority Muslim community from Myanmar who fled their country followed a campaign of persecution by the Burmese military.

The Bangladesh meteorological department urged the Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar ports to to hoist the great danger signal eight, as the coastal region is expected to start experiencing the peripheral effect of the storm by Saturday night, according to the latest weather bulletin.

Mocha, which has a diameter of between 500 and 700 kms and is carrying winds of above 150 kph, is expected to make landfall between the coasts of Bangladesh and Myanmar around noon on Sunday.

The tiny St Martin’s island in the Bay of Bengal could be hit with the full force of the storm, with the authorities deciding to evacuate around 10,000 residents of the popular tourist spot, Ahmadul Haque, the head of Bangladesh’s Cyclone Preparedness Program, told EFE

In the Rohingya camps, volunteers were raising awareness over the risks associated with the cyclone, additional refugees commissioner Mohammad Shamsud Douza said.

A majority of the nearly one million refugees live on slopes of local hills, where heavy rains could trigger landslides.

Douza said that evacuations would be carried out if needed, but currently volunteers and officials were focusing on educating the refugees.

Bangladesh is prone to being hit by cyclones due to its geographical location, with the storms mainly occurring in two periods: April-May and October-November.

In May 2020, super cyclone Amphan left more than 100 people dead in India and Bangladesh, in one of the worst such calamity in recent years. EFE


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