In Burma, Rakhine State devastated by Cyclone Mocha: "Everything is destroyed, it's a vision of horror"

Mocha, the strongest storm in the region in more than a decade, has ravaged entire villages and IDP camps in Rakhine State, including here in Sittwe. AFP - SAI AUNG MAIN

Text by: Jelena Tomic Follow

3 min

The death toll from Sunday's cyclone sweeping through the coasts of Bangladesh and Burma is rising by the hour, with reports trickling in as communications recover. Mocha, the strongest storm in the region in more than a decade, has ravaged entire villages and IDP camps in Rakhine State. Interview with Brights Islam, a member of the oppressed Rohingya Muslim community, who has been living since 2012 in one of the many displacement camps in Sittwe, the state capital.


Read more

RFI: For several days, reports have been reported of several hundred victims in Rakhine State and very significant material damage. What is the situation in Sittwe where you are?

Brights Islam: Everything is destroyed, it is a vision of horror. Cyclone Mocha was very violent in Sittwe. It took many lives. There are more than 100 dead and a thousand wounded. Almost 90% of makeshift makeshift shelters have been destroyed, as have essential infrastructure, hospitals, schools, universities and places of worship. Bridges, roads, telephone towers were damaged. Some government buildings, offices, even the airport were damaged.

The cyclone destroyed almost everything in the city. I was able to see with my own eyes the dead in the camps. Rohingya villages have been submerged by floodwaters, entire families have lost everything fleeing to escape death. I collect the data myself in IDP camps and villages and at this stage a hundred people are missing. And this data represents only 5% of all IDP camps in Rakhine State.

Humanitarian aid is struggling to reach the affected areas. Delivery is underway. What do you need most?

Priority is dry food and drinking water, because people have lost everything and do not even have a container to cook anymore. Their shelters and homes were destroyed. The population also needs mosquito nets, which is very important at this time. After floods, mosquitoes proliferate, people sleep on the ground, which can cause disease. Therefore, there is an urgent need to send medical aid, as thousands of people have been injured and have not yet received treatment.

Your community has been subjected to decades of brutal repression by the military junta. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fled to Bangladesh in 2017. You yourself have been living in a camp for internally displaced people since 2012. How have the Burmese authorities handled the situation?

There was no discrimination, as they had to deal with a natural disaster. The government did its job, informed us of the dangers of the cyclone and ordered the evacuation. But the problem is the lack of infrastructure to accommodate evacuees. There are about 600,000 Rohingya today in Rakhine State, 120,000 live in displacement camps in Sittwe alone and only about 2,000 people have been able to be transferred to shelters – that's the number of places available in reception centres – all the rest had to stay in the camps even if they wanted to leave.

Newsletter Receive all the international news directly in your mailbox

I subscribe

Follow all the international news by downloading the RFI application

Read on on the same topics:

  • Bangladesh
  • Burma
  • Natural disasters
  • Weather
  • Rohingya