About half a million people are being relocated to safer areas in south-eastern Bangladesh in anticipation of a potentially deadly cyclone.
Mocha is expected to make landfall on Sunday with winds of 170 km per hour (106 mph) and storm surges of up to 3.6 meters (12 feet).
Nearly one million people live in improvised shelters in Cox’s Bazar, the world’s largest refugee colony.
The camp is already experiencing precipitation, and red warning flags have been raised.
Cyclone Mocha could be the strongest cyclone Bangladesh has seen in nearly twenty years.
As the weather system approaches the Bangladesh-Myanmar coast, adjacent airports have been closed, fishermen have been told to stop working, and 1,500 shelters have been erected as the process of evacuating people from vulnerable areas commences.
Officials in Cox’s Bazar reported that 1,000 people had been evacuated from one area, with intentions to relocate an additional 8,000 from a ward near the beach if the situation deteriorated.
Vibhushan Kanti Das, additional deputy commissioner at Cox’s Bazar, told, “We are ready to face any dangers, and we do not wish to lose a single life.”
The official stated that tourists staying in beachfront hotels will be secure. So emergency personnel will relocate vulnerable locals such as fishermen and families.
Nearly one million Rohingya refugees who have fled neighboring Myanmar (also known as Burma) continue to live in precarious bamboo huts with tarpaulin roofs. The United Nations claims it is doing everything possible to protect these areas.
Since Bangladesh won’t allow refugees leave their camps, many are worried about the storm destroying their shelters.
40-year-old Mohammad Rafique and his family reside in one of the tiny bamboo refuges constructed for refugees.
These shelters with tarpaulin roofs are unlikely to provide significant protection from strong winds and torrential rains.
We can only pray to God for salvation, says Mohammed. We have nowhere to go and no one to turn to for safety.
He adds, “We have endured numerous hardships in the past, and our homes have been destroyed in the past.” We trust that it will not occur this time.”
MD Shamsul Douza, from the Bangladeshi government office that administers the refugees and camps, told that they were working with NGOs to ensure that the camps were as prepared for the cyclone as possible.
However, he stated that evacuating refugees from the camps was not a simple operation.
“Moving a million refugees is extremely difficult, as is the movement’s implementation. We must be pragmatic, said the official.
In Myanmar, the rain began falling on Friday evening in Sittwe City, the state capital of Rakhine. As people sought sanctuary, the streets emptied, with many seeking refuge in cyclone shelters on high ground.
There are virtually no lifejackets available, and the remaining stock is being sold at a premium. On Saturday, petrol stations were also closed, making it difficult for people to drive out of the city.