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Thousands evacuated as Cyclone Mahasen hits Bangladesh and heads for Myanmar

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Thousands evacuated as Cyclone Mahasen hits Bangladesh and heads for Myanmar

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Already forced from their homes because of sectarian violence, thousands of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims are again packing up.

This time, with Cyclone Mahasen expected on Friday, they are leaving camps set up by the UN. It is estimated 70,000 people – mostly Rohingya Muslims – are living in vulnerable coastal areas after clashes with Myanmar’s ethnic Rakhine Buddhists.

Many Rohingya Muslims are distrustful of Myanmar’s government and were reluctant to evacuate at first.

Student Moneya Shamshuallam, 20, is a Rohingya Muslim. He described his decision to leave the camp for a village.

“It was raining and windy last night. Our temporary tents collapsed. Our family is moving to Onh Taw,” he said.

Category one Cyclone Mahasen could whip up winds of 120 kilometres per hour.

The cyclone has already claimed the lives of at least seven people in Sri Lanka and is now bearing down on Bangladesh.

The UN says the cyclone could endanger 8.2 million people in northeast India, Bangladesh and Myanmar.