Cyclone Mocha: How many were killed in Myanmar and Bangladesh and is climate change to blame?

flooded areas caused by Cyclone Mocha near old temple in Bagan, Central Myanmar.
flooded areas caused by Cyclone Mocha near old temple in Bagan, Central Myanmar. Copyright Military True News Information Team via AP
Copyright Military True News Information Team via AP
By Euronews Green with AP
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Around 1,000 people have been rescued along the western coast of Myanmar, after Cyclone Mocha hit on Sunday.


Six people have been reported killed in Myanmar by a powerful cyclone likely intensified by climate change.

The true impact of Cyclone Mocha, which made landfall along the country’s western coast on Sunday afternoon, is yet to emerge.

Yesterday, rescuers evacuated around 1,000 people trapped by seawater 3.6 metres deep. Hundreds were injured and communications cut off in one of Asia’s least developed countries.

Several injuries were also reported in neighbouring Bangladesh, which was spared the predicted direct hit.

Was Cyclone Mocha caused by climate change?

Roxy Mathew Koll, a climate scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology in Pune city, said cyclones in the Bay of Bengal are becoming more intense more quickly, in part because of climate change.

Climate scientists say cyclones can now retain their energy for many days. Cyclone Amphan in eastern India in 2020 continued to travel over land as a strong cyclone and caused extensive devastation.

“As long as oceans are warm and winds are favourable, cyclones will retain their intensity for a longer period,” Koll said.

Tropical cyclones, which are called hurricanes or typhoons in other regions, are among the world’s most devastating natural disasters when they hit densely populated coastal areas.

In May 2008, Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar with a storm surge that devastated populated areas around the Irrawaddy River delta. At least 138,000 people died and tens of thousands of homes and other buildings were washed away.

Cyclone Mocha forced residents to higher ground in Myanmar

A local man rides a motorbike past damaged buildings after Cyclone Mocha in Sittwe township, Rakhine State, Myanmar.AP

Cyclone Mocha made landfall in Rakhine state on Sunday afternoon, sending seawater racing into more than 10 low-lying wards near the shore.

Winds blew up to 209 kilometres per hour near Sittwe township, Myanmar’s Meteorological Department said.

To escape the storm surge and ferocious winds, residents fled to higher floors and roofs.

Around 20,000 people took shelter in sturdier buildings on the highlands, such as monasteries, pagodas and schools. 700 of them were injured, according to a leader of the Rakhine Youths Philanthropic Association in Sittwe, who asked not to be named due to fear of reprisals from the authorities in the military-run country.

“After 4pm yesterday, the storm weakened a bit, but the water did not fall back. Most of them sat on the roof and at the high places of their houses the whole night. The wind blew all night,” the rescue group leader said.

Water was still about 1.5 metres high in flooded areas later on Monday, but rescues were being made as the wind calmed and the sun rose in the sky. He asked civil society organisations and authorities to send aid and help evacuate residents.

AP/Satellite image/Maxar Technologies
Photos taken on 17 February and 15 May show the site of a lighthouse in Sittwe, Myanmar, before and after Cyclone Mocha made landfall in Rakhine state.AP/Satellite image/Maxar Technologies

High winds crumpled cell phone towers, but in videos collected by local media before communications were lost, deep water raced through streets and wind blew off roofs.

Myanmar’s military information office said the storm had damaged houses and electrical transformers in Sittwe, Kyaukpyu, and Gwa townships. It said roofs were torn off buildings on the Coco Islands, about 425 kilometres southwest of the country’s largest city, Yangon.

Volunteers previously said shelters in Sittwe did not have enough food after more people arrived there seeking help.

What damage has Cyclone Mocha caused in Bangladesh?

Al-emrun Garjon/AP
A woman surveys the damage caused to her home by Cyclone Mocha at Saint Martin island in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, 15 May 2023.Al-emrun Garjon/AP

Mocha largely spared the Bangladeshi city of Cox’s Bazar, which initially had been in the storm’s predicted path. Authorities had evacuated hundreds of thousands of people before the cyclone veered east.


A Bangladesh government official, Enamur Rahman, said the damage was still being assessed, but that about 2,000 homes had been destroyed and 10,000 others were damaged on Saint Martin’s Island and Teknaf in Cox’s Bazar district.

He said no deaths were reported.

About a dozen people were injured on Saint Martin’s Island, the Prothom Alo newspaper reported.

UN agencies and aid workers in Bangladesh had prepositioned tonnes of dry food and dozens of ambulances in the refugee camps that house more than one million Rohingya Muslims who fled persecution in Myanmar.

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