Cyclone Mocha brings three hazards

It has been raining intermittently in Chattogram from the morning on 14 May, 2023Jewel Shil

Cyclone Mocha is going to be the strongest storm after cyclone Sidr to lash the coastal areas of Bangladesh. It is all set to make landfall on Cox’s Bazar and the north-Myanmar coast before 6:00 pm today.

The coastal areas started experiencing the peripheral effects of the cyclone last night. Teknaf, St. Martin’s Island, and different places in Chattogram and Bandarban saw rainfall since Saturday evening, due to the impact of the cyclone.

The meteorological department asked Cox’s Bazar, along with its offshore islands and chars, to hoist great danger signal -10 and 11 coastal districts and adjoining islands and chars to hoist great danger signal - 8.

The met office has warned of three hazards due to the cyclone – strong winds, high tides, and landslides. As per the latest weather bulletin issued on Sunday morning, the maximum sustained wind speed within 74 kilometers of the cyclone center is about 195 KPH, and it is rising to 215 KPH in gusts.

Such wind speeds may cause mud houses and huts to fly away and uproot plants. Due to the cyclone's impact, different areas of Cox’s Bazar and Chattogram may see a wind-driven surge height of 8-12 feet above normal astronomical tide, while 10 other coastal districts may experience a surge height of 5-7 feet.

Additionally, there might be heavy to very heavy rainfall in Chattogram, Sylhet, and Barishal divisions. It may trigger landslides in the hilly areas of five districts – Cox’s Bazar, Bandarban, Rangamati, Khagrachhari, and Chattogram.

Residents of different areas, including St. Martin’s Island, were moved to shelters yesterday to avoid casualties. The disaster management and relief ministry said some 6,983 shelters have been set up in 13 districts to accommodate nearly 4 million people.

Meanwhile, an impact analysis report of the Need Assessment Working Group, a coalition of international and non-governmental organisations working on disasters in Bangladesh, said on Friday that some 20 upazilas in four districts may experience a wind speed of 93 KPH or above due to the cyclone.

Around 5.7 million people are now in danger, including about 2.8 million women, 758,000 children (under 4 years), and 74,673 people with disabilities. Among the women, around 74,000 are pregnant.

The report also noted that there are around 763,000 mud houses and huts in the vulnerable areas that may see extensive damage or get destroyed in the cyclone.

The biggest concern lies with the residents of St. Martin’s Island, Cox’s Bazar, other islands and chars of coastal districts. Residents of mud houses and huts in hilly areas and Rohingya camps are also a concern.

An emergency meeting of the implementation board of the cyclone preparedness programme was held on Saturday at the conference room of the disaster management ministry, with state minister Enamur Rahman in the chair.

Later, he said the authorities have started moving vulnerable people of Cox’s Bazar and Chattogram districts to shelters on Friday night. Around 8,500 people of St. Martin’s Island, which is at high risk of devastation, have been taken to 37 structures resilient against high tides and super cyclones.

About the Rohingya camps, the state minister said the authorities do not have the capacity to move 1.2 million Rohingyas to shelters. Some 4,500 volunteers are working under the leadership of the refugee relief and repatriation commissioner (RRRC).

As they reside in the hills, there is no fear of high tide. But there might be landslides and the volunteers have been instructed to remain alert in this regard.

Updates on Mocha

According to the latest special bulletin of the Bangladesh Meteorological Department published at 9:00 pm Saturday, the highest wind speed in the centre of the cyclone was 200 kilometres per hour.

Notably, the highest speed of cyclone Sidr, which crossed Bangladesh in 2007, was 223 kilometres per hour. Since Sidr, Bangladesh has not experienced any cyclone that had the wind speed like cyclone Mocha, said Md Umar Faruk, weather expert at BMD.

The special bulletin further said the very severe cyclonic storm ‘mocha’ over east-central bay and adjoining area was centred about 605 km south-southwest of Chattogram port, 525 km south-southwest of Cox’s Bazar port, 625 km south of Mongla port and 565 km South of Payra port at 6:00 pm on Saturday.

Speaking to Prothom Alo on Saturday night at 8: 00pm, BMD director Azizur Rahman said, “The speed of cyclone Mocha was 8 kilometres per hour as of yesterday (Friday). But it speeded up today (Saturday). The cyclone is moving at a speed of 20 kilometres per hour now.”

According to the special bulletin, the Cox’s Bazar port has been advised to keep hoisting the great danger signal no. 10.  Besides, the coastal districts of Chattogram, Feni, Noakhali, Laxmipur, Chandpur, Barishal, Bhola, Patuakhali, Jhalakathi, Pirojpur, Barguna and their offshore islands and the adjacent chars have been asked to hoist great danger signal no. 8.

According to the BMD, the great danger signal no.10 means that the port is in danger of a cyclone of severe or maximum intensity where the maximum sustained wind speed in the storm centre can reach up to 89 kilometres per hour or more. The very severe cyclone is likely to cross the coast over or near the port.

Great danger signal no. 8 means that the port is likely to be affected by a cyclone of severe or maximum intensity where the maximum sustained wind speed could reach up to 89 kilometres per hour or more. The severe storm will cross the coast from the right side of the port.

The BMD has advised the Chattogram and Payra port authorities to keep hoisting the great danger signal no. 8 and the Mongla port has been asked to hoist danger signal no. 4.

The BMD bulletin said due to the peripheral effect of the cyclone and steep pressure gradient, the low-lying areas of Cox’s Bazar and Chattogram, as well as their offshore islands and chars, are likely to be inundated by tidal waves with a height of 8-12 metres above the level of normal astronomical tide.

Additionally, the low-lying areas, offshore islands, and chars of Feni, Noakhali, Laxmipur, Chandpur, and Bhola could be inundated by a surge height of 5-7 feet.

The bulletin said coastal regions of Chattogram and Barishal divisions are likely to experience the peripheral effect of the cyclone. Besides, there could be heavy (44 to 88 mm) to very heavy (more than 89 mm) rain in Chattogram, Sylhet and Barishal divisions. The heavy rain could trigger landslides in Chattogram hill tracts, Cox’s Bazar, Bandarban, Rangamati and Khagrachhari.

All the cyclones since 2019

Bangladesh has experienced a number of cyclones from 2019 to 2022. Cyclone Fani, Ampan, Yaas and Sitrang are notable among them.

Lastly, on 24 October, cyclone Sitrang crossed Bangladesh. Earlier, a large area of croplands in Barishal, Chandpur, Cumilla, Faridpur and Manikganj were damaged due to the peripheral effects of cyclone Zawad in December, 2021.

Cyclone Yaas mainly crossed over the Odisha region of India. However, Bangladesh too was affected by the cyclone. Some 77 upazilas in 15 districts and 13 Pourashavas were affected and seven people died due to cyclone Yaas.

Cyclone Ampan wreaked havoc in six districts for over 28 hours in May, 2020. Some six people were reported dead in the cyclone. Cyclone Bulbul hit Bangladesh in November 2019. At least two million people from Bagerhat, Satkhira, Khulna, Patuakhali, Bhola, Barishal, Barguna, Pirojpur, Jhalakathi, Chandpur, Chattogram, Feni, Lakshmipur and Noakhali, were affected by this.

Cyclone Fani crossed Bangladesh in May that year. Two people from Barguna and one each from Bhola, Noakhali and Lakhsmipur were reported dead due to the peripheral effect of cyclone Fani.

Cyclone Nargis hit mainly the Myanmar coast on 3 May, 2008. However, the Cox’s Bazar coast was also affected by this.

One the most severe cyclones hit the coastal areas of Chattogram on 29 April 1991. Around 138,000 people lost their lives in the cyclone. The coastal region of Chattogram did not experience any major cyclones after that.

Zohra Khatun lost all the members of her family in the cyclone of 1991. She was 10 at the time. They used to live in a house in Khudiartek area of Kutubdia in Cox’s Bazar. She now lives in the Nazirartek area in Cox’s Bazar.

Speaking to Prothom Alo while preparing to move to cyclone shelters with her family, she said, “I don’t want to lose anyone this time.”

*This report appeared on the print and online versions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Misbahul Haque and Ashish Basu