Fishing communities in western Myanmar’s Rakhine State are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, after their villages were nearly wiped out by Cyclone Mocha which made landfall on May 14 with wind speeds of up to 120 miles per hour.
Mocha was the second-most powerful storm ever recorded in Myanmar, after 2008’s Cyclone Nargis, and fishing villages along the Rakhine coast were severely battered, according to local volunteer groups. Rohingya fishing communities in Bu Pin village-tract are unable to resume their work as their boats remain damaged by the cyclone or stranded elsewhere. “Almost all fishing boats were damaged by the storm. So we can only buy tiny fish from vendors, said a Rohingya from Thet Kal Pyin Camp.
A villager from Thae Chaung Village said over 30 fishing boats from nearby villages have washed up near his village. “I saw over 30 fishing boats stranded on the west side of our village. None of them have been retrieved by their owners yet. Some boats were even washed into the compounds of houses,” he said. Humanitarian assistance reached Thea Chuang Village on May 24, according to local sources. “We received blankets, a tarpaulin sheet, cooking pot and mosquito net from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees,” said a resident.
Another villager said that while they very much appreciate the aid, he hadn’t received enough tarpaulin sheets to repair his house, while cooking pots, blankets and mosquito nets weren’t needed in his village. In Ma De Village in Pauktaw Township, there was extensive damage after fishing boats and nets were washed away by storm surges, said villagers. One volunteer from Pauktaw said that fishing communities urgently need shelter and food supplies because so many houses and their belongings were destroyed by Cyclone Mocha.
“Most of our communities are poor and it is impossible to rebuild or repair our houses on our own,” said the volunteer. Another volunteer group said that storm surges not only wiped out Thea Khon Village but also swept away fishing boats and equipment, leaving the entire village in despair. An elderly woman from Thea Khon whose life has been devastated by the storm said “she would rather have died in the storm instead of staying alive” in a video uploaded to Facebook by the Myitta Yaungchi Foundation.
The Myittar Yaungchi Foundation spokesperson said that they had donated some food supplies to the most vulnerable people in Thea Khon, but were unable to help the entire village due to limited funds. On Pha Yone Kar Island in Pauktaw Township, at least seven fishing businesses were affected by Cyclone Mocha, with many fishing boats lost in the storm, said local sources.
In Mrauk-U Township, distraught fishermen could not go out fishing as they felt they could not leave their families behind. “We are all on our own. Our families remain helpless. So we couldn’t go out fishing in this uncertain situation and leave our families behind,” said one fisherman. He added that some residents who lost their homes are currently staying at a monastery in Mrauk-U Town, as they can’t afford to buy tarpaulin sheets to repair their houses. “We can’t afford to buy tarpaulin sheets due to the rising prices. So it is impossible to repair our house unless we receive aid,” said the fisherman.