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Cyclone Mocha strongest hit in Myanmar’s west coast from Bay of Bengal, 400,000 people were evacuated

One of the strongest storms to hit Myanmar in recent years has severely disrupted communications in impoverished Rakhine state, a major ethnic armed group and an aid worker said on Monday, making it difficult to gauge the extent of its impact.

 Cyclone Mocha barreled down Myanmar’s west coast from the Bay of Bengal on Sunday afternoon, sparing more than a million refugees in vulnerable camps in neighboring Bangladesh but flooding the Rakhine capital Sittwe and bringing down at least one communications tower.

About 400,000 people were evacuated in Myanmar and Bangladesh before Cyclone Mocha made landfall as authorities and aid agencies scrambled to avoid heavy casualties.

“All communications are still down and people are in trouble because all the roofs are gone,” said Khine Thu Kha, a spokesman for the Arakan Army, which controls areas of Rakhine state. “We use military equipment to communicate with them.”

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Cyclone Mocha strongest hit in Myanmar’s west coast from Bay of Bengal, 400,000 people were evacuated

Benjamin Small, a consultant with the United Nations Development Program, said it was difficult to understand the extent of the destruction due to severe communications in Rakhine.

“But with reported winds of 250 km/h (155 mph), making Cyclone Mocha one of Myanmar’s strongest on record, and disturbing images online, it’s not looking good,” Small said on his Twitter account.

The military has banned internet in various parts of the country, including some areas in Rakhine and neighboring Chin state, which was also in the path of Cyclone Mocha.

“There is a significant overlap between the blackout areas and the cyclone’s path, which is a major problem as it hinders efforts to reach people,” said digital rights activist Htaike Htaike Aung.

In remote and hilly Chin, which has previously seen heavy fighting between the junta and the resistance, the areas through which the storm swept through have been out of communication since the coup, the China Human Rights Organization said.

“We have not yet been able to determine the extent of the devastation,” said Salai Za Group Deputy Director Uk Ling. “The storm itself is a trigger for other problems as heavy rains continue and landslides and flooding tend to follow.”

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