DHAKA, Bangladesh – Early warnings by weather agencies and better preparedness by local governments and aid agencies may have saved thousands of lives as a powerful cyclone battered Bangladesh and Myanmar over the weekend. But there is concern about the large number of people who are reported missing in areas where preparedness failed.
Thousands of Rohingya were moved from Myanmar to safer areas until Cyclone Mocha passed, in the world’s largest refugee camp located in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district. But in Rohingya displacement camps in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, where the storm hit hardest, the presence of aid agencies is thin and help from the country’s military government is negligible.
Only about two dozen deaths have been reported by Myanmar media, but many people are still missing in the camps, which were reportedly badly damaged by the storm surge. Getting information from the affected areas has been difficult as telecommunications were damaged by the storm’s strong winds. Independent verification is difficult even in normal times because the military imposes restrictions on the media.
In Bangladesh, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said that more than 700,000 people had been shifted to cyclone shelters or temporary facilities, including schools and mosques.
Azizur Rahman, director of the Bangladesh Meteorological Department, said early warning and “proper and timely dissemination of information” enabled authorities to move people to safer places in time.
The Indian Meteorological Department has been keeping a close watch on the storm ever since it was detected on April 27. As the main meteorological agency of the region, the department is responsible for monitoring cyclones in the northern Indian Ocean from the coasts of Oman in Western Asia to Myanmar in Southeast Asia.