Tropical Cyclone “Mocha” makes landfall in Myanmar, locals report up to 90% of Sittwe destroyed

tropical cyclone mocha at 0940z may 14 2023 f

Extremely dangerous Tropical Cyclone “Mocha” made landfall near Sittwe, the capital city of Myanmar’s Rakhine State, south of the Bangladesh border, at about 07:00 UTC (13:30 LT) on Sunday, May 14, 2023, with maximum 1-minute sustained winds of 240 km/h (150 mph), and wind gusts up to 305 km/h (190 mph).

  • Approximately 1 million people were evacuated in Bangladesh and Myanmar ahead of the landfall
  • Mocha made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane equivalent, damaging and destroying homes, uprooting trees, downing pylons and cables, and creating a 3.5 m (11.5 feet) tidal surge that inundated the low-lying region
  • The cyclone rapidly weakened after it crossed the coastline

Just several hours before making landfall, Mocha intensified into the equivalent of a category-five storm on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale, making it one of the strongest storms ever recorded in the Bay of Bengal.

tropical cyclone mocha at 0050 utc on may 14 2023 jma
True-color image of Tropical Cyclone “Mocha” at 00:50 UTC on May 14, 2023. At the time, Mocha had 1-minute sustained winds of 280 km/h (175 mph), making it equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Credit: JMA/Himawari-9 (AHI)

While the full extent of the damage is still unknown, Sittwe residents are reporting up to 90% of the city destroyed.

Electricity and wireless connections were disrupted across much of the city, the BBC reported. Footage online showed roofs being blown off houses, telecom towers brought down, and billboards flying off buildings amid teeming rain across the region.

While search and rescue operations and damage assessments are in progress, the entire Rakhine state was declared a natural disaster area.

The Myanmar Red Cross Society said it was preparing for a major emergency response.

As of early Monday, at least six people have been reported dead and over 700 injured in Myanmar.

Rohingya refugee camps near Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh were spared the worst. However, at least 1 300 shelters have been destroyed there.

tc mocha 1020z may 13 2023 bg
Tropical Cyclone “Mocha” at 10:20 UTC on May 13, 2023. Credit: KMA/GEO-KOMPSAT, RAMMB/CIRA, The Watchers
tropical cyclone mocha at 11z may 14 2023 bg
Tropical Cyclone “Mocha” at 11:00 UTC on May 14, 2023. Credit: KMA/GEO-KOMPSAT, RAMMB/CIRA, The Watchers

Based on the data and archives of the RSMC New Delhi, Mocha tied with Tropical Cyclone “Giri” (2010) as the third strongest landfalling tropical cyclone in Myanmar in the satellite era, with 3-minute sustained winds of 195 km/h (120 mph).

Based on the 1-minute sustained winds, the cyclone has generated an Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) of 15.4850 — beyond the ACE of the whole 2022 North Indian Ocean cyclone season with only 12.4175.

JTWC best track nudged up the max winds of Mocha up to 280 km/h (175 mph), tying it with Tropical Cyclone “Fani” (2019) for the strongest winds in the Bay of Bengal during the satellite era (post-1998), Int’l Aviation Meteorologist Mike Adcock reported.

The southern coastal areas of Myanmar were ravaged by Tropical Cyclone “Nargis” in 2008. The disaster led to the tragic loss of nearly 140 000 lives and severely impacted millions of others.

A large proportion of the fatalities were the result of a 3.5 m (11.5 feet) high tidal wave that struck the low-lying region of the Irrawaddy Delta.


May 17

In Myanmar, across Rakhine, Chin, Magway, Sagaing and Kachin states, DG ECHO and UN OCHA reported 41 fatalities, around 700 injured people, approximately 100 000 evacuated, and 5.4 million affected.

The worst affected is western Rakhine, which includes several Rohingya Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps, which have been significantly damaged. In Chin, over 1 200 houses were partially or fully destroyed. Approximately 50 destroyed houses were reported across Sagaing. Severe flooding has affected more than 100 000 people in villages in Magway and Sagaing.

In Bangladesh, the UN reports, nearly 430 000 affected people, over 2 000 destroyed houses, and more than 10 600 damaged houses across the Chattogram Division as of May 15. Rohingya refugees camps in the Cox’s Bazar area were severely affected.

14:08 UTC

Mocha has left at least 130 people dead in camps for displaced Rohingya people near Sittwe, according to a report published by La Prensa Latina.

“I haven’t experienced such a situation in my life. It is as if the city has been bombed. The roofs of the houses are no longer there. There is nothing left,” Sittwe U Aung Aung, secretary of the Rakhine State Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told EFE on Wednesday.

Although three days have passed since its impact, the exact number of victims and the situation on the ground remains uncertain.

May 18

07:38 UTC

On May 17, a situational report released by the Myanmar government reported a preliminary death toll of 455 and an unspecified number of people missing. 431 deaths were reported in Rakhine, 15 in Magway, 4 in Sagaing, 2 in Shan, and 1 each in Yangon, Ayeyarwady, and Mandalay.

On May 16, they estimated that 500 000 households need roofing material, especially tarpaulins, while food and drinking water is urgently required for about 1 million people (in Rakhine state alone).

Extensive crop damage has been reported, amounting to at least 17 206 ha (42 517 acres).


1 Cyclone Mocha: Deadly storm hits Myanmar and Bangladesh coasts – BBC – May 15, 2023

2 Flooding, communications blackout as Cyclone Mocha hits Myanmar – Al Jazeera – May 14, 2023

Featured image: Tropical Cyclone “Mocha” at 09:40 UTC on May 14, 2023. Credit: KMA/GEO-KOMPSAT 2A, RAMMB/CIRA, The Watchers

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