Cyclone Mocha: Death toll in Myanmar at least 32 Cyclone Mocha toppled trees and pylons in Myanmar's Rakhine state - Getty Images

(BBC) The powerful cyclone that hit Myanmar on Sunday has killed at least 32 people, locals have told the BBC, but the toll may rise further.

Cyclone Mocha was one of the strongest storms to make landfall in the region this century, packing winds of about 209km/h (130mph).

The confirmed deaths are in Rakhine state, home to many people living in low-lying coastal areas, and Magway division in central Myanmar.

Hundreds of homes have collapsed.

Unconfirmed reports put the death toll much higher, especially in camps where the internally displaced Rohingya minority live.

In Sittwe, the capital city in Rakhine state, roads have been blocked by uprooted trees and fallen power pylons.

In other, less peaceful, areas of the country there are also reports of military attacks on locals following the storm.

Thousands of people have fled their homes in the north-western Sagaing region as the army entered villages under cover of the cyclone.

“It has been raining since 12 May, we had run from the overflowing streams,” a resident in the region’s Kani township told the BBC. “The soldiers also punched. [Residents are] fearing the danger of the soldiers more than the danger of the storm.”

Locals who the BBC spoke to estimate that some 15,000 residents from the Kani and Khin Oo townships have been affected by military attacks in the last two days. They said a four-year-old boy in Inpa village was receiving medical treatment after being hit by a bullet.

“Myanmar is facing a storm on many fronts, with reports that the Myanmar army attacked villages in other regions while Cyclone Mocha unfolded in Rakhine state. The needs of families continue to be great,” NGO Partners Relief & Development, which works in the cyclone-hit Rakhine state, said in a Twitter post on Tuesday.

Communities in Sagaing have put up some of the strongest opposition to the military. The division also houses a large number of anti-coup militias, known as the People’s Defence Force.

There were no immediate reports of casualties in neighbouring Bangladesh, but the category five storm crushed thousands of shelters in the world’s largest refugee camp at Cox’s Bazar. It is home to one million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar.

About 750,000 people fled low-lying areas ahead of Mocha’s landfall last Sunday. It came 15 years after one of Asia’s deadliest cyclones, Nargis, smashed into Myanmar’s Irrawaddy Delta and claimed 140,000 lives.

Cyclones are the equivalent of hurricanes in the Atlantic and typhoons in the Pacific. Scientists say these storms have become stronger and more frequent due to climate change.

By Kelly Ng, Joel Guinto & BBC Burmese Service

BBC News


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