In Burma, the death toll rises to 145 after the passage of the terrible cyclone « Mocha"
Steph Deschamps / May 23, 2023
In Burma, the death toll from Cyclone Mocha, which swept through the country and Bangladesh, has risen to 145, mostly Rohingya, the junta announced in a statement Friday.
The cyclone hit Burma and Bangladesh on Sunday, with heavy rains and 195 km/h winds that demolished buildings and turned streets into rivers. The strongest storm in the region in more than a decade ravaged villages, uprooted trees and cut off communications in much of Rakhine State, where hundreds of thousands of Rohingya live in camps displaced by decades of inter-ethnic conflict.
A total of 145 people were killed in the cyclone," the junta's information team said in the statement. "According to the information we got, four soldiers, 24 residents and 117 Bengalis were killed in the storm," it said.
Bengali" is a derogatory term used in Burma to designate the Muslim minority. Some 600,000 Rohingya have been living in Burma for several generations, deprived of access to health and education, "under an apartheid regime", according to Amnesty International. All are treated as foreigners and even have to ask for permission to travel outside their village.
A Rohingya village chief had told AFP that more than 100 people were missing in his village alone in the aftermath of the cyclone. Another village chief near Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine state, told AFP that at least 105 Rohingya had died in the vicinity of the town, and that the count was not complete.
In neighboring Bangladesh, officials told AFP that no one died in the cyclone, which passed near huge refugee camps housing nearly a million Rohingya.
The junta's statement also said that media reports about the deaths of 400 Rohingya were "false" and that action would be taken against the media outlets that published them.
Since its coup more than two years ago, the junta has arrested dozens of journalists and closed media outlets deemed critical of its regime. Ships and the air force have brought in thousands of bags of rice and thousands of electricians, firefighters and rescue workers had been deployed to Rakhine State, junta-backed media reported Friday.
Flights resumed normally at Sittwe airport on Thursday, according to the official Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper. Some international aid agencies, including the World Food Programme, were working on the ground in Sittwe town this week, according to AFP correspondents on the ground.
When asked by AFP, a junta spokesman did not immediately respond to a question about whether UN agencies had access to IDP camps outside Sittwe.
In 2017, a violent military crackdown drove hundreds of thousands of Rohingya to flee to neighboring Bangladesh, reporting stories of murder, rape and arson.
Junta leader Min Aung Hlaing, who has been in power since the Feb. 1, 2021, coup and was head of the armed forces during the 2017 crackdown, called the identity of the Rohingya "imaginary. »
Cyclones, sometimes called hurricanes in the Atlantic and typhoons in the Pacific, are a regular threat to the northern Indian Ocean coasts, where tens of millions of people live.