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15 May 2023 | Media Advisory

MOCHA hours away from making devastating landfall in Myanmar and Bangladesh

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Photo: Bangladesh Meteorological Department

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Extremely Severe Cyclonic Storm Mocha is hours away from making landfall on the coasts of Bangladesh and Myanmar. Of particular worry is the potential impact on Cox’s Bazar, the world’s largest refugee camp, as well as the internally displaced camps in Rakine state, Myanmar, where an estimated six million people are in dire need of humanitarian assistance.

ICIMOD has been collaborating closely with meteorological agencies from its member countries, leveraging their expertise in the development and application of advanced tools for weather analysis, seasonal forecasting, and climate projections. Through these collaborative efforts, ICIMOD has been developing and deploying tools and services aimed at enhancing local resilience to extreme weather events.

According to the latest advisory from the India Meteorological Department (IMD), Cyclonic Storm Mocha is projected to cross the Rakhine Coasts between Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, and Kyaukphyu, Myanmar near Sittwe. Expected to hit as an Extremely Severe Cyclonic Storm around noon today, the system is then forecasted to move North-Northeastwards towards Chin State, Magway, Sagaing Regions, and Kachin State as a Very Severe Cyclonic Storm.

Experts fear that Cyclonic Storm Mocha could be the most devastating storm to hit Myanmar since the catastrophic Nargis in 2008, which claimed the lives of 100,000 people. Moreover, it poses a significant threat to Bangladesh, potentially becoming the most powerful storm the country has faced in two decades.

Early warning systems set up in the past decades and the Cyclone Preparedness Programme are supporting a huge evacuation effort of millions of vulnerable people and helping aid agencies in the region to gear up for a disaster response.

Dr. Mandira Singh Shrestha, Senior Water Resources Specialist at ICIMOD, expressed deep concern, stating, “It is the most vulnerable communities in our regional member countries that are likely to bear the brunt of Storm Mocha.”

According to the IMD briefing, Cyclonic Storm Mocha is expected to bring sustained wind speeds of 180-190 kmph, with gusts reaching 210 kmph, narrowly missing the threshold for a Category 5 storm. The Washington Post reports that areas near the landfall zone should prepare for “disastrous winds, extreme surge and rainfall, as well as a freshwater flood threat.”

In anticipation of the storm’s impact, a storm surge of 3-3.5 meters above ordinary tide levels is likely to inundate low-lying areas along the North Myanmar and southeast Bangladesh coasts, accompanied by massive waves reaching up to 7 meters. The cyclone’s eye, measuring 35 kilometres, will have a particularly devastating impact within a 40 kilometres radius.

In addition to the immediate threats posed by Mocha, heavy rainfall from the storm is expected to persist throughout the region, increasing the risk of river flooding and landslides in North-East India and the Tibet Autonomous Zone of China.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) has expressed grave concern for the storm’s potential impact on vulnerable and displaced communities, including the 232,100 individuals residing in low-lying internally displaced camps in Rakhine state.

While the direct link between climate change and the frequency of hurricanes, storms, and cyclones remains uncertain, it is widely acknowledged that global warming contributes to the intensification of these weather events. Warmer sea surface temperatures provide increased energy.

Last year, Bangladesh Meteorological Department (BMD) officially launched High-Impact Weather Assessment Toolkit (HIWAT). HIWAT is a customised weather research and forecasting model developed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, and provides forecasts for various weather parameters like rainfall, hailstorm, temperature, and even lightning 54 hours in advance.

BMD professionals have received training to help them independently operationalize and use HIWAT to simulate extreme weather hazards, issue forecasts, and effectively manage the system.

The tool currently covers areas of Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, and northeast India. In collaboration with NASA and USAID, ICIMOD’s SERVIR-HKH initiative further customised the tool for the region, and developed specialised country-level visualisation systems for Nepal HIWAT-Nepal, Bangladesh HIWAT – Bangladesh, and Bhutan HIWAT – Bhutan.

For more information

Neraz Tuladhar


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