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Cyclone Mocha hits Myanmar-Bangladesh coast with devastating force

14 May: A powerful cyclone named Mocha slammed into the coast of Myanmar and Bangladesh on Friday, May 12, 2023, bringing heavy rain, strong winds and storm surges that caused widespread damage and displacement.

According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), Mocha was a category 5 cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 260 kmph and gusts up to 300 kmph when it made landfall near Sittwe, the capital of Myanmar’s Rakhine state. The cyclone also affected parts of Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar districts in Bangladesh, where thousands of people were evacuated to shelters.

Mocha was the first pre-monsoon cyclone to form over the Bay of Bengal this year and the strongest one to hit the region since Cyclone Nargis in 2008, which killed over 1 lakh people in Myanmar. Mocha originated from a low-pressure area that formed over the southeast Bay of Bengal on May 8 and intensified rapidly into a depression, a cyclonic storm and then a severe cyclonic storm by May 10.

The cyclone changed its course from its initial north-northwest direction to a north-northeast direction due to the influence of a western disturbance that moved across North-West India and East India. This spared the East Coast of India from the direct impact of the cyclone but exposed the Myanmar-Bangladesh coast to its fury.

The cyclone brought torrential rain and flooding to the coastal areas, as well as inland regions of Myanmar and Bangladesh. The storm surges inundated low-lying areas and eroded beaches and embankments. The strong winds uprooted trees, snapped power lines and damaged houses, crops and infrastructure. The cyclone also disrupted communication, transportation and relief operations in the affected areas.

The authorities in both countries have declared a state of emergency and mobilized rescue and relief teams to assist the affected people. The United Nations and other humanitarian agencies have also offered their support and assistance to the governments and local partners. The exact extent of damage and casualties is yet to be assessed, but preliminary reports indicate that hundreds of people have been killed or injured and millions have been displaced or affected by the cyclone.

Mocha was named after the Red Sea port city that is credited with introducing coffee to the world over 500 years ago. The name was suggested by Yemen, as per the naming convention followed by the World Meteorological Organization for tropical cyclones in the North Indian Ocean region.

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