Hundreds of buildings damaged, IDP shelters destroyed by Cyclone Mocha in northwestern Myanmar

Cyclone Mocha hit Chin State and nearby Htilin Township, Magway Region, on Sunday, leaving a trail of destroyed buildings and devastating a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs).

The heavy rain and winds severely damaged close to 500 houses in Matupi Township, 100 houses in Paletwa Township, 40 houses in Sakta village, Hakha Township, and more than 20 houses in M’htarimnu village, Mindat Township, according to a statement by the Interim Chin National Consultative Council, an anti-junta ethnic organisation.

Salai Isaac Khen, a member of the council board, said several churches in the villages of Hungle, Taungla, Ruava and Tingsi–all in Matupi Township–were among the damaged buildings. 

He added that there could be additional, as yet unrecorded damages in villages near the Lemyo River, which flows from Chin State into Rakhine State. There had been no contact with villages near the river as of Tuesday, two days after the storm.

“As the storm passed through from Rakhine State, we suppose that more villages along that path were affected,” Salai Isaac Khen said.

An information officer of the Chinland Defence Force (CDF) ethnic armed organisation’s chapter in Matupi said that the storm had also damaged their bases in Matupi Township, but that they still lacked detailed information due to difficulty communicating with the units stationed there.

Junta-controlled news outlets gave an account that made the damage appear less severe, claiming on Tuesday that the storm had passed through five of the state’s villages or wards and damaged two houses, a monastery, and two departmental administrative buildings.

A bridge in Htilin Township damaged by the storm (Yaw Revolution Army)

The heavy rains that followed the storm also caused flooding in Htilin Township, Magway Region, destroying over 120 tents belonging to IDPs, according to the Htilin chapter of the Yaw Revolution Army (YRA), a local defence team based in the township.

An arson assault by the military destroyed most of the village of Htan Pin Kone, Htilin Township—formerly made up of over 100 households—in November 2022. This forced some 600 villagers to set up camp in an uninhabited field—dubbed “Ai Ma”—between Htan Pin Gone and the nearby Maw Creek, which runs south of the village.

According to a YRA information officer, after continuous rainfall starting on May 12, the Maw Creek overflowed its banks and destroyed the villagers’ shelters. 

“The Ai Ma field is actually 10 feet above the creek’s water level, but the floodwater was up to 20 feet high,” he said.

He added that food supplies were lost in the flood, as well as more than 20 cattle and oxen, and that several elderly people and children were ill and in need of medical aid after exposure to the rain. 

“We need whatever help we can get. We were left with nothing. The flood even took all the food supplies in Htan Pin Gone village,” the YRA information officer said.

The Ai Ma field in Htilin Township, which flooded during the storm

However, sources there told Myanmar Now that the IDPs from Chin state and Htilin township were not harmed as they were already evacuated before the storm.

Clashes between the pro-junta and resistance forces have been frequent in Chin State and Magway Region since the February 2021 military coup, forcing many civilians from their homes. 

Reaching wind speeds of over 100mph on Sunday, Cyclone Mocha also passed through Rakhine State and Sagaing Region, aggravating an ongoing humanitarian crisis brought about by intense conflict, violence targeting minorities, and widespread displacement of civilians in recent years. 

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