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    Cyclone Mahasen Misses Burma, Bringing Relief to Displaced Rohingyas

    An Internally displaced Rohingya woman holds
    her baby outside her tent waiting to leave a camp for displaced Rohingya people
    in Sittwe, northwestern Rakhine State, Myanmar, Thursday, May 16, 2013. Members
    of the displaced Rohingya minority started to evacuate for safer shelters ahead
    of the arrival of Cyclone Mahasen. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

    Irrawaddy News:
    May 16, 2013

    SITTWE, Arakan State—Tropical Cyclone Mahasen
    missed western Burma’s Arakan State on Thursday afternoon, bringing relief to
    tens of thousands of internally displaced Rohingyas living in camps near the
    coast.
    An official at the Department of Meteorology and
    Hydrology said the cyclone had made landfall at the Chittagong coast in central
    Bangladesh at 3:30 pm.
    “In Bangladesh, the cyclone caused winds of 100 KPH
    (60 MPH). In Myanmar there were some rains and on the Arakan coast there were
    high waves,” he said. In northern Arakan State, at Maungdaw Township, waves of
    2-meter (6-feet) were recorded as the cyclone passed by and near Sittwe waves
    rose to about 1.5 meter, the official added.
    Reuters reported that the ports of Chittagong and
    Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh were lashed by strong winds, while heavy rains were
    likely to cause widespread flooding. The UN said that 4.1 million people in
    Bangladesh were being threatened by the cyclone.
    Five people in Bangladesh were killed by the storm
    on Thursday, Reuters reported, while thousands of small huts were destroyed by
    torrential rains.
    In Sittwe town on Thursday, the cyclone passed by
    unnoticed.
    In the days before, Arakan State authorities and
    the UN had been trying to evacuate tens of thousands of Rohingyas from
    low-lying internally displaced persons (IDP) camps, located in a coastal zone
    near Sittwe.
    Tens of thousands of IDPs there were considered
    vulnerable to the cyclone’s impact, but some Rohingya camps had refused to
    comply with the government’s evacuation plan.
    A UN official said that by Thursday morning most
    Rohingyas had begun evacuating the sites. “The majority are moving now,” said James
    Munn, a public information officer at the UN Office for the Coordination of
    Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA).
    “We had pockets of resistance, but people have been
    moving since May 13,” he said. “We had a big storm last night… Those areas that
    were reluctant to move [earlier] were ready to move today.”
    Munn said that in many cases IDPs had moved into
    nearby villages, located on higher ground.
    A day earlier, Arakan government spokesperson Hla
    Thein had stated that most Rohingya IDP camps had turned down a government plan
    to evacuate them to a large military base near Sittwe. Rohingyas at three camps
    said on Wednesday that they would not be moved to the base, as they did not
    trust the military and police units that would transport them.
    Munn said that he was unfamiliar with the claims
    made by Hla Thein, adding, “That’s certainly not what we have seen on the
    ground.”
    On Thursday, several hundred families at two
    low-lying camps near Hmanzi Junction who had resisted evacuation, agreed to be
    moved to the nearby village of Thit Kal Pyin.
    Steve Gumaer, CEO of Partners Relief and
    Development, said that the US charity had arranged several trucks to evacuate
    the Rohingyas from an unofficial camp called Dar Phim.
    “We and the UN helped the army to leave from here,”
    he said, adding that Rohingyas agreed to be moved because the military and
    police were no longer involved in the operation.
    Hundreds of evacuated Rohingyas from Dar Phim were
    waiting inside the secondary school in Thit Kal Pyin village on Thursday
    morning as rains poured down.
    Most had no belongings and many looked despondent
    after having been put through yet another ordeal. Some wondered how they would
    survive while they waited at the crumbling old schoolbuilding.
    “We have no food here,” said Ukarlu, an
    emaciated-looking 60-year-old Rohingya man. “We are hungry today, we need
    food.”
    A group of anxious young Rohingya mothers holding
    their babies, waited under an awning of the school building. They complained of
    having no food or shelter for their vulnerable infants. “We moved here because
    we are afraid of the storm,” said Shar Si Tar Pik, a 35-year-old mother of
    four.
    She said that she had given birth to her baby
    daughter three months ago at Dar Phim camp, a cluster of rickety bamboo huts
    covered with plastic tarpaulins, located on a muddy paddy field.
    Shar Si Tar Pik said it was extremely difficult to
    take care of her daughter in the conditions that her family was facing. “I’m so
    troubled, I feel so bad. I have no food for my family,” she said, while
    clutching her tiny baby tight.