Two dead, hundreds of thousands flee as cyclone batters Bangladesh

Cyclone Mora battered Bangladesh on Tuesday, killing two people, ripping through camps housing Rohingya refugees and forcing 450,000 people to flee coastal villages.

Police said a woman and a man had been crushed under trees felled by winds of up to 135 kilometres per hour in the coastal district of Cox’s Bazar, which bore the brunt of the cyclone.

The district is home to 300,000 Rohingya refugees, most of whom live in flimsy makeshift camps after fleeing persecution in neighbouring Myanmar.

Community leaders said damage to the camps was extensive and there had been no attempt to evacuate the Rohingya. They described how residents had to run for shelter in the middle of the night.

“In some places, almost every shanty home made of tin, bamboo and plastics has been flattened,” said Abdul Salam, a Rohingya community leader, adding that around 20,000 houses had been damaged and some residents injured.

Cox’s Bazar has for years been home to hundreds of thousands of Rohingya, a stateless minority living mostly in Myanmar.

Their numbers have swelled since a brutal crackdown last October by the Myanmar military sent 70,000 fleeing across the border into Bangladesh.

Away from the camps, authorities had evacuated more than 449,000 people to cyclone shelters after raising the highest number 10 weather danger alert as the storm approached. They had initially planned to make one million people leave their villages.

“They have been evacuated to at least 400 cyclone shelters, schools and government offices in the coastal areas,” said Golam Mostofa, the senior official coordinating the evacuation. Cyclone Mora comes days after heavy rains in Sri Lanka killed at least 183 people, many of them buried under landslides, and brought the worst flooding the island has seen in 14 years.

South Asia is frequently hit by flooding in the summer with the arrival of the annual monsoon rains. On Tuesday they hit the southern Indian state of Kerala, from where they will sweep across the country over the coming months.

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