UN OCHA Flash Update 6, Cyclone Mahasen, Bangladesh and Myanmar

from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 16 May 2013

Tropical Cyclone Mahasen, which has been downgraded to a tropical storm, made landfall in Bangladesh on the morning of 16 May (local time), bringing strong winds and heavy rains to Chittagong and surrounding districts. On its current path, it will continue to move northeast from Myanmar and towards the eastern states of India. The current speed at the centre of the storm is around 80 km/h and is expected to reduce its wind speed to 55 km/h as it continues to move inland.

In Bangladesh, an estimated one million people were evacuated from 13 coastal districts in the 24-hour prior to the arrival of the storm. A tidal surge has caused floods in the districts of Barguna, Bhola, Patuakhali, Nohakhali and Laxmipur. The Government has not declared a disaster, and no request for international assistance has been received at this time.

The United Nations met this morning in Dhaka and committed to working collaboratively with the Government and to provide support where required. Humanitarian partners report they are ready to respond. While people have moved to evacuation centres, there have been some instances of resistance due to multiple factors including changes in weather conditions.

The Bangladesh Government, through its Cyclone Preparedness Programme (CPP) has broadcast pre-cyclone Public Service Announcements (PSAs), carrying preparedness messages endorsed by the Department of Disaster Management via national radio. Post-cyclone messages for affected people are on standby to be broadcast immediately after the cyclone has passed.

A distribution plan for food assistance has been developed by humanitarian agencies, to supplement Government food and cash reserves. Essential nutrition and emergency WASH supplies have been pre-positioned for approximately 43,000 households in vulnerable districts. More than 6,000 family kits and two mobile water treatment units have been transferred to Chittagong.

In Myanmar, while it appears that the storm has moved further away from Rakhine state, heavy rain is still expected. Approximately 250 staff members of humanitarian organisations are in country and remain on standby and ready to respond; a number of them with expertise in rapid assessments. Assessment teams will begin assessment of affected sites as soon as possible after the storm subsides.

Assessment teams and protection monitoring continued working today at various camps with the assistance of community leaders, religious leaders, and international aid workers to help alleviate concerns of those resistant to move.

The government estimates nearly 78,000 people from 13 townships in Rakhine State have been relocated in total. UN agencies maintain that all measures must be taken to ensure that no lives are under undue threat. Some communities continued to resist relocatation to Government buildings but were eventually persuaded to move into other nearby locations, including schools, madrasas, and with host communities.

OCHA, UNHCR and UNICEF led training sessions today for staff on inter-sectoral rapid assessment, as agencies and humanitarian partners will initiate a post-storm assessment process across Rakhine in the coming days. The assessment will address the current needs of people in the relocation sites as well as requirements for their future return. At this time, it is unclear when the relocated communities will return to their places of temporary settlement, or whether other options will be made available for some.

Although Mahasen has passed Rakhine State, it is clear that many thousands are still accommodated in areas which make them more vulnerable to the elements and this must not continue. The Government of the United Kingdom today pledged a £4.4 million (US$6.7 million) humanitarian aid package for IDPs in Rakhine State ahead of the cyclone and rainy seasons. The aid package will provide 80,000 people with access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation facilities; treatment for malnourished children; and, hygiene kits for 40,000 people.

OCHA expects to issue another Flash Update tomorrow.

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