YANGON: The death toll from Cyclone Mocha has reached 145 in Myanmar with the majority Rohingya refugees, authorities said Friday (May 19), after the region’s most powerful storm in more than a decade hit at the weekend.
Mocha brought lashing rain and winds of 195kmh (120mph) to Myanmar and neighbouring Bangladesh on Sunday, collapsing buildings and turning streets into rivers.
The storm churned up villages, uprooted trees and knocked out communications across much of Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
The region is home to hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees who live in displacement camps following decades of ethnic conflict.
“Altogether 145 local people were killed during the cyclone,” a statement from Myanmar’s junta authorities said.
The number included four soldiers, 24 locals and 117 “Bengalis”, it added, using a pejorative term for the Rohingya.
Widely viewed as interlopers from Bangladesh, Rohingya are denied citizenship and access to health care in Myanmar, and require permission to travel outside of their townships.
A Rohingya village leader previously told AFP that more than 100 people were missing from his village alone following the storm.
Another leader based near the Rakhine state capital of Sittwe told AFP that at least 105 Rohingya had died around the city, with counting still ongoing.
Media reports that 400 Rohingya had died were “not true”, the junta’s statement said, adding that action would be taken against the outlets that published the figure.
The junta has arrested scores of journalists and closed outlets deemed critical of its rule since the military staged a coup that ousted an elected government more than two years ago.
Junta-backed media reported Friday that naval ships and the air force had brought in thousands of bags of rice, while thousands of electricians, firefighters and rescue workers had been deployed across Rakhine.
Normal flight service had resumed at Sittwe airport on Thursday, according to newspaper the Global New Light of Myanmar.