The death toll from Cyclone Mocha in Myanmar has risen to at least 145, most of them Rohingya, according to what the military council said in a statement on Friday.
The United Nations said Friday in Geneva that about 800,000 people affected by the passage of the cyclone in Myanmar need urgent humanitarian assistance.
The fiercest storm
This cyclone struck Myanmar and Bangladesh on Sunday with heavy rains and winds of 195 km per hour, destroying buildings and flooding streets.
The most severe storm in more than a decade destroyed villages, uprooted trees and caused communication blackouts in much of Rakhine state, where hundreds of thousands of Rohingya live in camps for people displaced by decades of inter-ethnic conflict.
“According to the information we obtained, four soldiers, 24 residents and 117 Bangladeshis were killed in the storm,” the council’s media team said in the statement.
And the designation “Bengali” is used in the most severe storm to denote the Muslim minority. About 600,000 Rohingya have been living for decades in Myanmar, where they are deprived of health and education services “under an apartheid regime,” according to Amnesty International.
They are considered foreigners and must obtain permission before moving outside their villages.
A Rohingya village official told AFP that more than 100 people were missing in this village alone after the cyclone.
Another village official near Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine state, told AFP that at least 105 Rohingya people died in the outskirts of the city, noting that this toll is not final.
In neighboring Bangladesh, officials denied to AFP that anyone had been killed by the cyclone, which passed near sprawling refugee camps housing about a million Rohingya.
The military council’s statement also stated that the information published by the media about the death of 400 Rohingyas was “false”, and that measures would be taken against the parties that published it.
Since carrying out a coup more than two years ago, the military council has arrested dozens of journalists and closed down media it considered to be in opposition to its regime.
Thousands of sacks of rice were transported by ships and the air force, while thousands of electricians, firefighters and paramedics were deployed in Rakhine state, junta-backed media reported on Friday.
Resumption of flights
Flights resumed normally at Sittwe Airport on Thursday, according to the official newspaper, the Global New Light of Myanmar.
AFP field correspondents reported that some international aid agencies, such as the World Food Program, were working on the ground in Sittwe this week.
Asked by AFP, a spokesman for the military council did not immediately respond to whether UN agencies had access to the camps for the displaced outside Sittwe.
In 2017, violent military repression prompted hundreds of thousands of Rohingya to flee to neighboring Bangladesh, where they recounted the killings, rapes and arson they had endured.
The head of the military council, Min Aung Hlaing, who has ruled since the February 1, 2021 coup and was at the head of the armed forces during the 2017 crackdown, does not recognize the identity of the Rohingya and considers it a “fiction.”
Cyclones pose a regular threat to the coasts of the northern Indian Ocean, where tens of millions live.
In May 2008, Cyclone Nargis left 130,000 dead or missing in Myanmar, the worst natural disaster in the country’s history.
On that day, the international community criticized how the military council dealt with the repercussions of this disaster, accusing it of obstructing the arrival of emergency aid.