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Cyclone toll in Myanmar’s Rakhine state at least 41: local leaders

Cyclone Mocha unleashed devastation in Myanmar's Rakhine state
Cyclone Mocha unleashed devastation in Myanmar's Rakhine state - Copyright AFP SAI Aung MAIN
Cyclone Mocha unleashed devastation in Myanmar's Rakhine state - Copyright AFP SAI Aung MAIN

The death toll in cyclone-hit villages of Myanmar’s Rakhine state rose to at least 41 on Tuesday, local leaders told AFP. 

Packing winds of up to 195 kilometres (120 miles) per hour, Mocha made landfall on Sunday, downing power pylons and smashing wooden fishing boats to splinters.

“We can confirm there are 17 deaths,” Karlo, the administrator of Bu Ma village near the state capital Sittwe, told an AFP reporter at the scene.

“There will be more deaths, as more than a hundred people are missing.” 

The village is inhabited by the persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority.

The Bu Ma number was on top of a death toll of 24 given to AFP by a Rohingya village leader in nearby Khaung Doke Kar village.

That leader requested anonymity due to fear of reprisals from the country’s junta.

The junta said on Monday that five people had been killed, without specifying exactly where they had died.

It was not clear whether the junta’s death toll included any of those killed in Bu Ma and Khaung Doke Kar.

AFP has contacted a junta spokesman for comment on the new death toll.

In Bu Ma on Tuesday morning, residents walked the seashore searching for family members swept away by a storm surge that accompanied the cyclone, AFP correspondents said. 

– ‘No one has come to ask’ –

Widely viewed as interlopers in Myanmar, the Rohingya are denied citizenship and healthcare and require permission to travel outside of their villages in western Rakhine state.

Many others live in camps after being displaced by decades of ethnic conflict in the state.

The United Nations refugee office said it was investigating reports that Rohingya living in displacement camps had been killed in the storm.

“UNHCR is saddened at hearing reports of deaths at displacement camps in Rakhine State in the aftermath of Cyclone Mocha,” it said in a statement.

It added that it was “attempting to conduct detailed assessments at displacement camps and sites to get a clearer picture of the situation”.

On Tuesday, contact was slowly being restored with Sittwe, which is home to around 150,000 people, AFP reporters said, with roads being cleared and internet connections re-established.

On Monday, state media footage showed troops unloading aid from planes at Sittwe airport.

But Rohingya villagers told AFP that they were yet to receive any assistance.

“No government, no organisation has come to our village,” said Kyaw Swar Win, 38, from Bu Ma village.

“We haven’t eaten for two days… We haven’t got anything and all I can say is that no one has even come to ask.”

AFP
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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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