Residents leave St. Martin’s Island as Mocha sparks panic

Residents of St. Martin's Island board trawlers at the jetty area, to seek shelter in Teknaf. This photo was captured on Friday afternoon.Prothom Alo

Cyclone Mocha has intensified into a very severe cyclone and is expected to make landfall on Teknaf and St. Martin’s Island on Sunday noon, according to the Bangladesh Meteorological Department (BMD).

It has created panic among the residents of St. Martin's Island, and many of them are leaving the island on trawlers and speed boats to take shelter in Teknaf, which is 34 kilometers away.

More than 500 people, mostly women and children, have taken shelter in Teknaf until Friday afternoon.

More than 500 people, mostly women and children, have left the island until Friday afternoon.
Prothom Alo

Feroz Ahmed Khan, the former chairman of St. Martin’s UP, said the panicked people started leaving the island for Teknaf in the morning. More than 500 people left for Teknaf on trawlers and speed boats until 3:00 pm, while some more are planning to follow suit.

Locals said that the island was submerged in tidal waves during Cyclone Sitrang in October last year. The cyclone damaged over a hundred houses and uprooted many coconut trees.

There might be full moon and new moon tides in the Bay during the cyclone’s landfall. The tides may gain an extra height of 20-25 feet during the cyclone, causing extensive damage since the island does not have a sustainable embankment to combat the tide.

Mujibur Rahman, the chairman of St. Martin's Union Parishad, said the situation was normal until 3:00 pm, with a clear sky and calm sea. However, the BMD bulletin on the cyclone created panic among the residents.

People in all wards of the island are being briefed using megaphones about the current location of the cyclone and what they should do, added the chairman.

Currently, around 11,000 people reside on the island.

Prothom Alo

Chairman Mujibur Rahman said he held meetings with the members of the disaster management committees of ward no. 9, 4, and 5 regarding preparations to deal with the cyclone. Bangladesh Navy, Coast Guard, and Police personnel are also ready to face the cyclone.

Md Kamruzzaman, the upazila nirbahi officer (UNO) of Teknaf, said some 37 hotels, along with three cyclone shelters, have been kept on standby in the island. More than 7,000 people can take refuge in the shelters. People are being provided with necessary instructions over megaphones. They will be taken to the shelters if required. Also, an adequate amount of dry food has been stored there.

The very severe cyclone Mocha, located over central Bay and the adjoining Southeast Bay, moved north-northeastwards over the east central Bay and its adjoining areas.

As of 12:00 pm on Friday, it was centered approximately 1,005 km south-southwest of Chattogram port, 935 km south-southwest of Cox’s Bazar port, 965 km south-southwest of Mongla port, and 930 km south-southwest of Payra port.

The maximum sustained wind speed within 74 km of the very severe cyclone centre is about 130 kph, rising to 150 kph in gusts.

The bulletin warned that the sea will remain very high near the cyclone centre. It advised all fishing boats and trawlers over North Bay to take shelter immediately.