UN OCHA Flash Update 4, Cyclone Mahasen, Bangladesh and Myanmar

Report
from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 14 May 2013

A red Storm Alert remains in effect for Tropical Cyclone Mahasen which is currently moving across the Indian Ocean towards Bangladesh and Myanmar. The cyclone does appear to have weakened and it is has been downgraded to a category-1 cyclone. It is expected to reach land now early on Friday morning (17 May). In its current path the cyclone is expected to hit north of Chittagong, Bangladesh but could, depending on its final trajectory, bring life threatening conditions for 8.2 million people in northeast India, Bangladesh and Myanmar. The highest impact, tidal surge and rainfall predictions are for the Chittagong and Cox's Bazaar areas of Bangladesh.

In Bangladesh, where the Government raised the signal level to 4 (of 6) yesterday, a preparedness meeting were held in Dhaka, as well as all of the 14 District Committees. The Government has allocated resources towards food (100 MT of rice) and cash payments (100,000 BDT) at the field level per district.

District Committees have been advised to treat all public buildings as cyclone shelters, including some private building such as hotels. Private owners will be compensated if necessary. Around 40 water treatment plants are ready to be mobilised to the potential affected areas. The Armed Forces, under the Prime Minister’s Office have established a coordination and information cell in preparation, and the Air Force is on call ready for food distribution drops. Of particular concern are the hard-to-reach areas, especially island communities. The Director General of the Department of Disaster Management briefed humanitarian agencies and told them refugees from Myanmar around Cox’s Bazaar are located on higher ground, and therefore less at risk of being affected. He confirmed that assistance would be provided equally without discrimination.

Humanitarian agencies in Bangladesh updated the Government on their preparedness plans. While the Government hasn’t requested assistance from the international community, clusters have been working with the Government to ensure complementary efforts. All clusters are reviewing and/or revising their contingency plans with input from all cluster members, updating stocks and pre-positioning supplies in at-risk locations such as Chittagong.

In Myanmar, relocation and evacuation efforts according to the Government's plan are underway. As part of stage-1, the plan is to move 38,000 IDPs yesterday and today (14 May). It is unclear how many people have been relocated. Teams from humanitarian agencies have been monitoring the relocation efforts. Some IDPs are reluctant to relocate and some communities have refused to use military vehicles or to shelter in military barracks. Discussions between Government and communities in Sittwe are ongoing to negotiate alternative sites. The Government agrees that relocations are to be done in consultation with the IDPs. Muslim leaders have issued a statement encouraging people to cooperate with authorities.

Humanitarian agencies are keen to understand what the triggers are for starting stage-2 of the evacuation plan which involves moving 100,000 IDPs. In Sittwe, the University will be used for stage-2 relocations.

Last night, seven boats with IDPs from the Pauktaw camp Nget Chaung, were moving to other camps in advance of the storm. One of the boats hit some rocks and capsized. It is understood that 100 IDPs were on the boats and 58 remain missing. This has now been confirmed by the Government. The Government will provide boats for the relocation of other IDPs in Pauktaw. The UN is calling for search and rescue capabilities to be assessed.

In Maungdaw, in northern Rakhine State, relocations are proceeding more slowly than in other locations. A total of 64 villages are to be relocated. Evacuations began on 13 May and the Government estimates that the majority will be moved by 15 May. The Planning Minister has told humanitarian agencies that the Government will not allow anyone to die in the cyclone, and that assistance must be provided equally to all affected people. Personal belongings are not being moved with the IDPs. The Government is informing villagers through multiple channels such as loudspeakers, the use of yellow flags, and leaflets. The Government has invited agencies to visit the relocation sites to assess their suitability and to help inform communities of the process. The shelter cluster coordinator has also arrived in Maungdaw to support operations.

In Kyaukhpyu, relocation has not yet started, however the site has been identified.

Humanitarian agencies responding as clusters in the areas of health, protection, shelter, food security, education and, water and sanitation have all made available staff that can deploy for response and assessments. Stock has been prepositioned such as medical supplies, tents and food. The Ministry of Health and the heath cluster have deployed 10 mobile teams to Sittwe and activated its emergency plan.

OCHA expects to issue another Flash Update tomorrow.

For further details please contact:

Kirsten Mildren | Regional Communications Officer

Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs | Regional Office Asia Pacific

Tel: +66 2288 2856 | Mob: +66 81 915 1276 | Email: mildren@un.org

For more information, please visit www.unocha.org/roap or @OCHAAsiaPac

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:

To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit http://unocha.org/.