More than 5,000 people have arrived in Labutta township over the past few days, amid warnings that a fierce tropical cyclone is bearing down on Myanmar’s western coast, aid groups helping the evacuees told RFA Wednesday.
They said evacuees arrived from the nearby villages of Pyin Sa Lu, Sa Lu Seik and Kwin Pauk and have been put up in monasteries and friends’ homes.
One local social assistance group official, who didn’t want to be named for security reasons, told RFA that although monasteries have been providing food it is not enough.
“There are places where cyclone evacuees gather to get food [but] there are 400 to 500 evacuees in each monastery or monastic school,” the official said.
RFA called the junta spokesperson and social affairs minister for Ayeyarwady region, Maung Maung Than, to ask what was being done to feed and house evacuees and minimize casualties if the cyclone is severe but no one answered.
Junta Deputy Information Minister Major Gen. Zaw Min Tun told regime-controlled newspapers Monday that 118 disaster shelters have been built in Ayeyarwady region and 17 more were under construction.
He said relief materials had been arranged for 6,000 people in six townships in the region.
According to a report by Myanmar’s Department of Meteorology at 7 a.m. local time Wednesday, a Depression in the Bay of Bengal was likely to turn into a Very Severe Cyclonic Storm by Friday morning.
The department forecast the storm would make landfall at Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, Kyaukpyu in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state and the northern Rakhine coast.
It warned people to beware of strong winds, heavy rain, flash floods and landslides and issued a warning to flights and shipping near the Myanmar coast.
A tropical cyclone is a rapidly rotating storm which has a diameter of between 200 and 1,000 kilometers (124 to 621 miles) and brings violent winds, torrential rains and high waves.
Cyclones are named by the U.N. World Meteorological Organization in order to avoid confusion when there is more than one in the same region simultaneously. If winds reach a certain speed, this storm will be named Cyclone Mocha after a port city in Yemen.
Myanmar has been hit hard by severe weather conditions in the past. More than 138,000 people died when Cyclone Nargis hit the country in May 2008.
It was the world’s third most deadly meteorological disaster of its time according to the WMO Atlas of Mortality and Economic Losses from Weather, Climate and Water Extremes (1970-2019).
About 80,000 people died in Labutta township alone, according to local authorities.
Translated by RFA Burmese. Edited by Mike Firn.