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Bangkok Post
Bangkok Post

'Mocha' action shows SAC's ability

A Rohingya woman carries her baby next to her destroyed house at Basara refugee camp in Sittwe, after Cyclone Mocha made landfall on May 16. (Photo: AFP)

The extremely severe cyclonic storm Mocha was a very powerful and deadly tropical cyclone, but technological advances, an early warning system and the effective action of the State Administrative Council (SAC) of Myanmar and the collective effort of the public saved thousands of lives across the Rakhine coast, and Sittwe, the capital city of Rakhine state, remains resilient.

The SAC began developing its action plan for Cyclone Mocha as soon as the Meteorology Department received a warning of a developing cyclone in the Bay of Bengal, which was also being tracked by India's Meteorological Department (IMD) on May 2.

Mocha rapidly strengthened, peaking as a Category 5-equivalent storm on May 14, with winds reaching up to 280 kilometres per hour.

On May 8, the Government of Myanmar declared the state of Rakhine a disaster zone, issuing timely warnings and updated cyclone information throughout the period. On the same day, the Disaster Management Centre (DMC) was activated. At least 650,549 people were evacuated from their homes along the coast to higher ground, where shelters had been set up.

Rescue workers and mobile medical teams were ready for the arrival of Cyclone Mocha. DMC had already distributed basic assistance, including instant noodles, dried food, and tarpaulins, along with other relief items using the military's ships, aircraft and trucks, before it made landfall.

That said, Sittwe and other cities in north Rakhine have been severely damaged by the cyclone.

As of May 22, the number of casualties from the cyclone stood at 145 -- the figure also includes a number of security personnel who lost their lives during rescue operations. At least 183,022 houses, 1,711 religious buildings, 340 governmental buildings, 227 hospitals and clinics, and 1,397 schools were damaged -- the roofs collapsed in most while some were completely destroyed. The basic infrastructure for electricity, telecommunication, and water supply has been disrupted by the cyclone, and victims are struggling to find food, shelter, and meet their daily needs.

After the cyclone, many people feel traumatised, having lost their loved ones, their homes and other properties. They will be able to re-establish themselves with assistance and aid from the government and other countries which are friendly with Myanmar. Neighbouring countries, such as India, Thailand and China, as well as international organisations, immediately provided humanitarian aid and disaster relief to the cyclone's victims.

Myanmar appreciates the humanitarian assistance extended to affected communities and further welcomes other members of the international community to support the recovery process.

While the nation's infrastructure was severely damaged by the cyclone, the electricity supply was restored very shortly, communications were quickly re-established in the following days, and roads which were flooded and littered by debris were quickly cleared by volunteers and military personnel. The SAC has shown its management capability, efficient action, and ability to plan long-term by quickly coming up with a resettlement plan for those affected by the cyclone.

Cyclone Mocha showed how the image of Myanmar painted by unreliable media outlets was nothing but an exaggeration which undermines the sovereignty of Myanmar.

Despite the growing geopolitical tension, Myanmar has always maintained friendly relations with all countries around the world. With mutual respect and a pragmatic approach, we can work out Myanmar's issues. Practical solutions will be considered, but not policies which reflect double standards.

Than Htwe is Deputy Chief of Mission of The Embassy of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar in Thailand.

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