UN OCHA Flash Update 5, Cyclone Mahasen, Bangladesh and Myanmar

Report
from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 15 May 2013

Tropical Cyclone Mahasen continues to move north-northeast across the Indian Ocean, and currently sits about 750 km southwest of Chittagong, Bangladesh. While the storm has weakened further it remains as a category-1 cyclone. The latest model shows that Mahasen will hit the coast of Bangladesh with wind gusts of 85 to 90 Km/h in the next 24 to 36 hours.

In Bangladesh, following the raising of warning signals to 7 from a possible 10 (expecting severe weather) for Cox’s Bazaar and Chittagong, the Government has ordered the evacuation of about one million people from 15 coastal districts. More than 1,400 cyclone-proof buildings are on standby in the area to receive people now that the evacuation order has been put into place. Operations at the Chittagong port and the local airports of Chittagong and Cox’s Bazaar have also been suspended.

An emergency preparedness meeting between the Government, UN agencies and NGOs was held in Chittagong to discuss preparedness and response coordination. As per the latest storm trajectory, 4.1 million people have been identified as living in at risk areas (in the districts of Chittagong and Cox’s Bazaar).

The food security, WASH, nutrition and education clusters have identified district level focal points in order to effectively coordinate with the Government response. The shelter cluster has finalised its capacity assessment and provided an update on contingency stocks to cluster members and local authorities.

WFP and partners say they have pre-positioned close to 130 metric tonnes of high-energy biscuits in hard-to-reach areas including major islands off the coast, and an additional 650 metric tons of biscuits are being moved in the coming days.

In Myanmar, the Government released figures on Wednesday 15 May tallying the number of people relocated to date ahead of the cyclone. A total of 35,550 people were relocated from Sittwe, Minbya, Myauk U, Kyauktaw, Rathedaung, Myebon and Pauktaw in Rakhine state.

The Government acknowledges that there has been some initial resistance from communities to relocate due to a lack of understanding or mistrust at the use of military vehicles to transport them to safer ground. Although it acknowledges the need for consultation with the communities affected by Mahasen, it says that the priority remains to move people to safer ground.

In this context the Government has urged community leaders to mobilise their influence to encourage and reassure people that relocation is in their best interests and will lead to lives being saved. Humanitarian organisations continue to monitor the relocation process throughout Sittwe, along with community and religious leaders, in an effort to help alleviate the concerns of those who have so far decided that they do not wish to move.

The Government says that it has 33,000 gallons of gasoline on stand-by in the event that generators are needed due to power shortages. The Ministry of Health says that it has disaster kits for 30,000 people on standby. Military transportation is currently being utilised to relocate those in affected areas, and military planes and boats will be made available in the event of a search and rescue operation, which will be coordinated by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

In India, the influence of the storm system created by the cyclone will bring heavy rainfall to the far western states, as well as the coast of West Bengal. After Mahasen makes landfall in Bangladesh, winds reaching 70 km/h are expected to reach the Indian states of Mizoram, Manipur and Tripura, which are located north of Bangladesh and Myanmar. Fishermen off the Andaman & Nicobar Islands and the West Bengal coast have been advised by the Government not to venture out to sea until the cyclone has dissipated.

On 14 May, Cyclone Mahasen brought heavy rains and landslides to Sri Lanka, with seven people confirmed dead and 3,881 people displaced due to the resulting heavy rains and landslides.

OCHA expects to issue another Flash Update tomorrow.

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