Cyclone victims in Bangladesh, Myanmar seek immediate support

Cyclone victims in Bangladesh, Myanmar seek immediate support

Australia to provide initial $1M to help cyclone-affected people in both countries, says foreign minister

By Md. Kamruzzaman

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AA) - Tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar’s Rakhine state and locals in Bangladesh’s coastal areas, severely affected by Sunday’s devastating Cyclone Mocha, are seeking immediate humanitarian aid, according to victims and officials.

“At least 1,000 houses have been damaged by the strong cyclone on this island (Bangladesh's St. Martin's Island) and we are acutely suffering now from the accommodation crisis,” Absar Shawon, a resident of the island, told Anadolu over the phone on Thursday.

St. Martin's Island is the only coral island of the South Asian delta nation of 170 million people and it is the most attractive tourist spot in Bangladesh located in the country’s southeastern Bay of Bengal.

Shawon added that after the ghostly cyclone swept over the island, the government and some NGOs have served dry food and mineral water.

“But we immediately need materials for rebuilding our houses. Just now, when I am talking to you, there is heavy rain here and a nor'wester storm (a seasonal storm, locally called Kalboishakhi Jhar) is going on,” he said.

Citing official sources, he added that they had come to know about the government’s plan to immediately rebuild their damaged houses on the island, home to nearly 10,000 people.

Meanwhile, speaking to Anadolu, additional refugee relief and repatriation commissioner in Bangladesh, Shamsud Douza, said most of the damaged tents of Rohingya people in the country have been rebuilt.

Currently, over 1.2 million persecuted Rohingya Muslims live in 33 congested camps in Bangladesh’s southeastern border district of Cox’s Bazar and most of whom fled a brutal military crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine state in August 2017.

“Almost all of their damaged houses have been fixed and other assistance for the cyclone victims of the Rohingya is continuing,” Douza said.

- Dire condition in Rakhine

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya living in Myanmar’s Rakhine state have still been suffering from a serious humanitarian crisis since the super cyclone Mocha hit the region most devastatingly.

Preferring anonymity, a Rohingya from Sittwe, the capital of the Rakhine state, shared some photos and videos showing damaged houses in Rakhine with many dead bodies of cattle lying on the riverside.

More than 400 Rohingya Muslims have been reportedly killed in Rakhine state due to the impacts of the cyclone while dozens are still missing.

Human Rights Watch in a statement on Thursday accused the military junta of Myanmar of failing to address the crisis.

“Myanmar authorities have held about 140,000 Rohingya arbitrarily and indefinitely in camps for more than 10 years and the camps, which have been in constant disrepair due to Myanmar authorities’ restrictions, were severely damaged by Cyclone Mocha on May 14,” said the statement.

It added that about 600,000 Rohingya still remaining in Rakhine state, are confined to squalid camps and villages that leave them exceptionally vulnerable to extreme weather events such as Cyclone Mocha.

“(Those Rohingya people are) compounded by the (Myanmar) junta’s severe restrictions on humanitarian aid,” the statement added.

- Assistance from international communities

Australian Foreign Minister and Senator Penny Wong in a tweet on Thursday said her country would mobilize support for the cyclone victims in both Bangladesh and Myanmar.

“Australia will provide an initial $1 million through the @UN and NGO partners to support those affected by Cyclone Mocha in Myanmar and in Bangladesh,” Wong tweeted.

She added that Australia was also working with partners to reprioritize existing funding for immediate support.

The World Food Program (WFP) in a report issued on Tuesday said: “In Myanmar, WFP is mobilizing food and cash assistance for at least 800,000 people affected by the cyclone. Figures could still increase following the assessments.”

Regarding Bangladesh, the global food provider added that 28,000 Bangladeshis in the Teknaf area were provided with cash before the cyclone struck, and 6,000 Rohingya refugees with fortified biscuits and hot meals immediately after the cyclone hit the region.

- India sends aid

Meanwhile, India has launched "Operation Karuna (Compassion)" to help cyclone-affected people in Myanmar.

Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar said three Indian navy ships carrying relief material have reached Myanmar's Yangon city on Thursday.

A fourth ship will reach on Friday, he added.

"The ships are carrying emergency food items, tents, essential medicines, water pumps, portable generators, clothes, sanitary and hygiene items, etc.," Jaishankar said, adding: "India continues to be the first responder in the region."

* Anadolu staff contributed to the story.

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