Bangladesh & Myanmar OCHA Flash Update, Cyclone - 11 May 2013

from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 11 May 2013

A Red Storm Alert has been issued for Tropical Cyclone ONE (known locally as Mohasin), which has formed in the Indian Ocean and is currently predicted to reach land late Wednesday evening, early Thursday morning (16 May) as a category 2 cyclone, just south of Chittagong, Bangladesh. Associated heavy rains and strong winds are expected to affect Rakhine State in Myanmar, which neighbours Bangladesh.

The Bangladesh authorities have activated a Signal 3 (out of 10) response. This includes warnings to fishermen not to venture out to deep waters, as well as to coastal communities of the possibility of cyclonic activity. Assuming the tropical cyclone continues on its current trajectory, it is anticipated that the Bangladesh Government will elevate the alert level to Signal 4 tomorrow (Sunday 12 May) and that the Cyclone Awareness Committee will also be convened. In the event of a Signal 6 warning being declared volunteers will commence the evacuation of vulnerable communities to cyclone centres. An estimated 60 million people could be at risk in 15 districts but this number could change as the tropical cyclone approaches. At this stage the Government of Bangladesh has indicated that it does not require international assistance or the support of disaster assessment teams.

The Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh is closely monitoring the situation. As part of the Humanitarian Coordination Task Team’s (HCTT) standard preparedness measures, humanitarian partners, including several donors, in Bangladesh met on 11 May to discuss key preparedness activities, including the availability and pre-positioning of stocks in the areas under threat as well as the sufficiency of local government supplies and human resources to address potential humanitarian needs. UN agencies and international NGOs are in close contact with their sub-offices in the area and are liaising closely with their field staff to ensure preparedness measures and contingency plans are being activated and implemented. As part of its cyclone preparedness plan, humanitarian agencies are on standby and are analyzing inaccessible areas in the cyclone belt and assessing the number of people who may be affected under various scenarios.

The Joint Needs Assessment mechanism, which has been used effectively to address coordinated, interagency assessments in the past in Bangladesh is available for implementation if necessary. A core assessment group to conduct a Phase 1 assessment could be convened and deployed to priority locations in advance of the cyclone’s landfall if necessary. The HCTT will meet again tomorrow to assess the current situation and progress being made on preparedness efforts at the national and sub-national level.

In Myanmar, due to the high risk and vulnerability of the people living in coastal areas, the humanitarian community in Myanmar has activated a number of emergency preparedness measures. Humanitarian agencies have held emergency meetings in both Yangon and Sittwe, the state capital of Rakhine and are putting into place measures as outlined in the contingency planning process, in close cooperation with Government counterparts at the capital and state levels. A UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination Team mobilisation alert has been issued as a precautionary measure.

The Rakhine State Government is leading preparations for a possible response and held a meeting with humanitarian agencies in Sittwe today. Humanitarian agencies are working with the State Government to identify options for relocation sites and will require at least one day to further assess the situation before action is agreed. The Government has to identify suitable public buildings, and as soon as these buildings are identified, technical experts will assess their suitability and what facilities need to be provided such as water and sanitation required to sustain the relocated, internally displaced persons (IDPs).

While all coastal communities are at risk, of particular concern is the welfare of some 140,000 IDPs that are living in poorly constructed camps or makeshift accommodation in Rakhine State. Many of the camps are located in low-lying coastal areas susceptible to tidal surge. According to the Humanitarian Country Team, 45,000 people living in Sittwe, Pauktaw, Myebon and Kyauktaw are the most vulnerable. Three priority sites have been identified by humanitarian partners in Sittwe which could shelter 13,000 people in need of temporary evacuation within Sittwe. However, options for Pauktaw IDPs still need to be identified.

OCHA is preparing a table with clear numbers of people who may be potentially affected by the storm and a list of available stocks and response capacities of all sectors and clusters. Food, tents, and emergency supplies such as tarpaulins, hygiene and family kits are available. DFID, USAID, AusAID have alerted their emergency teams and have stocks in various locations across the world on standby.

The Humanitarian Country Teams in Bangladesh and Myanmar are closely monitoring the situation. OCHA will issue another flash update tomorrow.

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