Cyclone Mocha moves towards Bangladesh, Myanmar coasts as thousands flee

A powerful storm raging with winds of up to 175 kph (109 mph) is heading to the coasts of eastern Bangladesh and Myanmar, threatening around a million Rohingya refugees and others living in low-lying locations.

Thousands of people in both countries have already fled to safer areas ahead of the storm, officials said on Saturday.

Cyclone Mocha is likely to intensify further and make landfall on Sunday between Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh and Myanmar, the Bangladesh Meteorological Department said in a bulletin.

Cox's Bazar, a southeastern border district, is where more than a million Rohingya refugees live, most of them having fled a military-led crackdown in Myanmar in 2017. Categorised as a very severe cyclonic storm that could unleash sea surges of up to 12 feet (3.66 metres), Mocha is expected to hit Myanmar's Rakhine state and northwestern region, where six million people need humanitarian assistance and 1.2 million are displaced, the UN humanitarian office said.

Since a junta seized power two years ago, Myanmar has been plunged into chaos and a resistance movement is fighting the military on multiple fronts after a bloody crackdown on protests.

A spokesperson for the Myanmar junta did not respond to a phone call. Focus on 'saving lives'

In Bangladesh, Mohammad Shamsud Douza, a government official responsible for refugees, said: "We are focusing on saving lives ... people who are at risk of landslides will be evacuated."

Thousands of community workers and volunteers had already been deployed, alongside medical and rescue personnel who are on stand-by, he said.

Outside the refugee camps, at least 5,000 people have moved to cyclone shelters and authorities have made arrangements to evacuate 500,000 people from the path of the storm, said Netai Chandra Dey Sarker from Bangladesh's Department of Disaster Management.

In Myanmar, the World Food Programme said it was preparing food and relief supplies that could help more than 400,000 people in Rakhine and surrounding areas for a month.

At least 10,000 have left their homes in Myanmar's Rakhine state for safer areas, local media reported.

"Everyone is trying to leave town since yesterday afternoon," said a 20-year-old resident of Rakhine's capital Sittwe, asking not to be named.

"Not many people remain in my street, just my family."


Remarks for Deputy Secretary Sherman Indian Ocean Conference

Hello, and thank you to Prime Minister Hasina and Foreign Minister Momen for hosting the 2023 Indian Ocean Conference and for inviting me to speak to this esteemed group. Thanks also to Minister Jaishankar, India’s Ministry of External Affairs, and the India Foundation for their partnership in helping to organize this event each year.

I really wish I could be with you all in Dhaka, but I am heartened to know the United States is well represented with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Afreen Akhter leading our delegation.

I appreciate the opportunity to address this unique forum—which brings together Indian Ocean nations from Africa to South Asia all the way to the Pacific Islands—and to deliver a simple message: the United States is committed to elevating its engagement in the Indian Ocean region.

The future of the world will be determined in large part by what happens here. The Indian Ocean region is home to 2.7 billion people—more than a third of the world’s population—and with an average age of 30 years, that percentage will only grow.

It is difficult to overstate the economic significance of this region. The Indian Ocean accounts for one-fifth of the world’s ocean surface, and it connects people and economies around the globe. Its vast coastline includes some of the world’s most important shipping lanes—from the Strait of Hormuz to the Malacca Strait. Eighty percent of the world’s maritime oil shipments traverse Indian Ocean waters. Some of the planet’s most vital fisheries are here, and they play a critical role in employing people in the region and feeding people around the world.

So it makes sense that all of us have an interest in a peaceful and prosperous future for the Indian Ocean region. We share the vision embedded in this year’s conference theme… Peace, Prosperity, and Partnership for a Resilient Future. As President Biden has said, the United States is “committed for the long haul, ready to champion our vision for a positive future for the region together with friends and partners.”

At the same time, this region does face serious challenges. The climate crisis touches us all, but it has a disproportionate impact on Indian Ocean countries. For some, particularly island states, climate change represents an existential threat. Meanwhile, piracy, armed robbery at sea, and trafficking degrade maritime security. And illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing threaten blue economies, which need to be sustainable for future generations to prosper.

All of these challenges require a concerted and collaborative approach—Among all of us, countries, multilateral bodies like IORA, civil society, and people. And the United States is committed to doing our part. That’s why we’ve announced plans to provide $165 million for programs across the Indian Ocean region that address climate change adaptation and mitigation, including the transition to a clean energy future.

It’s also why we are seeking to provide $6 million, working with the U.S. Congress, for regional maritime security initiatives… partnering with Bangladesh, India, Maldives, and Sri Lanka. This funding will bolster interdiction and law enforcement capacity in the Indian Ocean’s South Asian sub-region. Partnership is critical to maritime security, and I want to acknowledge India’s leadership in this space… specifically in the fields of anti-piracy, EEZ monitoring, and disaster response.

Investment in sustainable blue economies is a force multiplier, spurring economic development and demonstrating how environmental protection and economic growth are mutually reinforcing. Through USAID, the United States invests more than $33 million in 15 countries each year to promote sustainable fisheries and conserve marine biodiversity. And in this region, we are working to identify development assistance, including to Bangladesh, focused on growing sustainable blue economies.

We are doing this because the promise of the Indian Ocean region is limitless. We are doing this because unlocking its full potential requires all of us to come together. And while we are taking action to address common challenges, we are also here to listen. I hope you’ll share your ideas for how the United States can further develop our partnership with Deputy Assistant Secretary Akhter and the rest of our delegation.

In the coming months, we’ll look for ways to build on the momentum you generate in your conversations this week. And we’ll continue to advance our shared vision so we can build a more peaceful, prosperous, and resilient Indian Ocean region… together.

Thank you again for inviting me to speak today, and I wish you all a great conference.


Rohingya must stay at camps despite approaching cyclone, Bangladesh govt says

Bangladeshi authorities evacuated hundreds of thousands of people Saturday from coastal areas near the projected path of a monster storm, but Rohingya refugees would be prevented from leaving their camps in Cox’s Bazar, the home minister said.

As of late Saturday, Bangladeshi state media reported, the government had moved as many as 400,000 people into 1,030 cyclone shelters in Chittagong division, which covers Cox’s Bazar and other districts near Bangladesh’s southeastern border with Myanmar’s Rakhine state, where Cyclone Mocha is expected to make landfall on Sunday.

During a public event in Dhaka on Saturday, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said that agencies including the Armed Police Battalion in Cox’s Bazar were ordered to stop any of the 1 million or so Rohingya sheltering at camps there from leaving those confines and spreading across the country.

“Law enforcers are on alert so that the Rohingya people cannot take advantage of the disaster to cross the barbed-wire fence. But if Cyclone Mocha hits the Bangladesh [areas] instead of Myanmar, the Rohingya people will be brought to a safe place,” Khan said in televised comments.

World Vision, a humanitarian group, had warned on Friday that the storm threatened the safety of thousands of children at the world’s largest refugee camp, situated in Cox’s Bazar.

“Cyclone Mocha is expected to bring heavy rain and flooding along the coasts of Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, posing severe threat to the safety of children and communities in danger zones along coastal and low-lying areas,” the NGO said in a statement.

The cyclone is the most powerful and potentially dangerous sea-based storm seen in this corner of the Bay of Bengal in nearly two decades. On Saturday, India’s meteorological department said the weather system had intensified into an “extremely severe cyclonic storm.”

As of 12 p.m. Saturday (local time), the center of the storm was over the sea close to Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine, and packing winds of up to 231 kilometers per hour (143.5 miles per hour) as Mocha churned toward the low-lying coastal border areas between Myanmar and Bangladesh, according to the United Nations Satellite Centre (UNOSAT). Rakhine is expected to take a direct hit from the storm.

“According to the forecast by GDACS [Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System], tropical cyclone MOCHA can have a high humanitarian impact based on the maximum sustained wind speed, exposed population, and vulnerability,” UNOSAT said.

In a press release, the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR warned that Mocha could bring “significant rainfall with landslides and flooding of camps near the sea.”

The U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a separate bulletin on Saturday that the storm was forecast to generate wind speeds of up to 200 kilometers per hour (124.2 miles per hour) when it makes landfall on Sunday afternoon.

“Heavy rain and strong winds associated with the cyclone are expected to cause flooding across Rakhine, where many townships and displacement sites are in low-lying areas and highly prone to flooding,” OCHA said.

“Many communities are already moving to higher ground to designated evacuation centers or to safer areas staying with relatives,” the U.N. agency said.

In the Bangladeshi capital, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said her government was preparing to safeguard the nation and its people from the storm, but that there might have to be shutoffs to the electricity and gas supply.

“Cyclone ‘Mocha’ is coming. We’ve kept ready the cyclone centers and taken all types of preparations to tackle it,” the state-run news agency Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha quoted Hasina as saying on Saturday. Her Awami League government faces a general election in late 2023 or early 2024.

In Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh’s meteorological agency raised the danger signal for the coming cyclone to 10, the most severe rating.

Meanwhile, Mohammad Mizanur Rahman, the country’s refugee relief and repatriation commissioner, confirmed that law enforcement agencies would prevent Rohingya from leaving the camps.

He said Rohingya would have to seek shelter at mosques, community centers and madrassas located within the sprawling refugee camps in the district.

“We have prepared some buildings including mosques and community halls as temporary cyclone shelters. About 20,000 Rohingya people would likely need cyclone shelters if there will be a landslide,” he said.

The Rohingya would face no risk from storm surges because their shelters are located in hilly areas, he added.

“As there are 1.2 million Rohingya, we have no capacity to evacuate them to [cyclone] shelters,” according to a statement issued on Saturday by Md. Enamur Rahman, Bangladesh’s state minister for disaster management and relief.

He did not give a reason and did not immediately respond to a follow-up phone call from BenarNews.

Nearly three-quarters of a million people who live in the camps fled to the Bangladesh side of the frontier with Myanmar after the Burmese military launched a brutal offensive in Rakhine, the homeland of the stateless Rohingya, in August 2017.

“Four and a half thousand volunteers are working under the leadership of the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner for the Rohingya people,” Enamur Rahman said.

“There is no risk of floods on the hills but rainfall can cause landslides. Keeping this fear in mind, I have asked the volunteers to be prepared,” the state minister said.

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Literary realm should be further enlarged: Former PM Chand

Former Prime Minister Lokendra Bahadur Chand has said that more contributions are needed to serve the literary genre.

Addressing an event organized by "Late Chandra Bahadur Gurung Memorial and Study Foundation" on Saturday, the former PM said that Nepal's literary sector has not progressed as expected. "It is our responsibility to safeguard and promote literature. The mass media should also ensure space to promote literature," he said adding that entrepreneurs have promoted literature than the government in the developed countries.

During the programme, Manav Sewa Ashram and Nai Publications were prized with a cash of Rs 100,000 each for their service to the philanthropic deeds.

Source: National News Agency Nepal

Party has no connection with Rai: RSP

Rastriya Swatantra Party (RSP) has said the party has no any connection with agriculture expert, Madan Rai. Rai has been arrested on Friday on the charge of sexually abusing schoolgirls.

A press release issued by RSP General-Secretary and Spokesperson, Dr Mukul Dhakal, mentioned that the sexual abuse on schoolgirls by Rai was condemnable.

The statement reads, "Our serious attention has been drawn towards the questions regarding Rai's relation with RSP. We had invited Rai as a guest speaker in a gathering organised at Khula Manch on August 27, 2022. Rai, who even was not a general member of the RSP, was invited as the agriculture expert. We want to inform that RSP has no connection and relation with Rai after that programme."

The RSP also demanded legal action against Rai.

Source: National News Agency Nepal

Minister Basnet urges parents to vaccinate their children regularly

Minister for Health and Population Mohan Bahadur Basnet requested parents to administer regular vaccines to their children.

In a video message released by the Minister today, Minister Basnet urged the parents of the children who missed vaccination in the last vaccination drive on April 28 to visit the nearest public health facility on May 14 for the same.

Ministry of Health and Population is administering routine vaccines to children below five years, who missed the regular vaccination, on coming Sunday.

The Ministry, under the regular immunization schedule, provides vaccines to children below five years against 13 types of diseases, it was shared.

In Nepal, 80 per cent of children were fully vaccinated while 20 per cent of children missed the full course of the immunization and four per cent of children were still deprived of immunization, according to the Ministry.

Source: National News Agency Nepal

Identity supporters should not do politics of negation: Minister Limbu

Minister for Youth and Sports Dig Bahadur Limbu asserted that those identity seekers launching demonstration against the name of Koshi Province should not do politics of negation.

Talking to media persons in Biratnagar Airport today, Minister Limbu urged those advocating for identity to launch peaceful agitation quitting the violent one to achieve the rights at a time when Province No 1 has already been named as the Koshi Province.

Stating that Nepal is a country with multiple ethnicities, languages and religions, the Minister asked one and all to create enabling environment for all the Nepalis to live in harmony.

Arguing that violent demonstration would stall development's pace in the country, he spoke of the need for the identity seekers to think on it.

Minister Limbu viewed that the country could be led in the path of peace if the genuine demands raised by those advocating for identity were addressed.

The Minister also pledged to incorporate naming of the international cricket stadium at Baijanathpur in Morang district as the 'Girija Prasad International Cricket Stadium' in the federal government's annual policies and programmes so as to give an imputes to its construction.

On a different note, he assured that necessary measures would be taken to streamline and promote sports sector as well as to encourage athletes.

Source: National News Agency Nepal

Landlords and entrepreneurs launch clean-up drive in Thamel

Tourism entrepreneurs and landlords have conducted a clean-up drive in one of the popular tourist hubs in Kathmandu- Thamel- to make it clean and a tourist attraction.

In the clean-up drive spearheaded by the Thamel Tourism Development Council, officials from the Kathmandu Metropolitan City, Nepal Police, tourism entrepreneurs and landlords in Thamel area joined hand in hand for the sanitation drive from 7:00 am today.

Participants cleaned up roads, alleys and thoroughfares in an hour long clean-up drive. Council's President Bhabi Sharma shared that the drive was initiated to make 'Our Thamel, Clean Thamel' campaign a success and the drive would be continued in coming days.

For that, according to him, the Council will review the clean-up drive and will solicit suggestions from the stakeholders and participants to make the drive more effective.

Tourism entrepreneur Ramesh Osti called for cooperation and participation from all quarters to take forward the drive. "Everyone's active role is necessary to make the world-renowned Thamle as a clean and beautiful place."

Arjun Lal Pradhan, who owns a house in Thamel, echoed Osti and said that it was imperative to have everyone's cooperation to make Thamel pollution-free.

Source: National News Agency Nepal

UML’s cc meeting at 1:00 pm today

A central committee meeting of the CPN (UML) is taking place this afternoon.

The meeting is scheduled at the party headquarters, Chyasal, in Lalitpur at 1:00 pm, said Deputy-Chief of CPN (UML) Publicity Department, Bishnu Rijal.

He shared that today's meeting would approve the one-year annual action plan passed by the Standing Committee.

Similarly, UML Chairperson KP Sharma Oli would respond to his political report and review report of mission grassroots campaign in the meeting.

The cc meeting began from May 11 would conclude today.

Source: National News Agency Nepal

Tigers in Central Zoo fast on Saturdays

Six Royal Bengal tigers (four male and two female) have been kept in the Central Zoo in Jaulakhel, Lalitpur. Each of them is fed five kilograms of buffalo meat every day, meaning approximately Rs 5.6 million has been spent a year on feeding all of them, said Ganesh Koirala, the information officer for the zoo.

However, all of them fast on Saturdays just to avoid economic burden. Number of tigers is adding beyond capacity. This comes with economic burden as well, he said. "The zoo houses the number of tigers beyond capacity. On the other hand, economic burden adds along with tigers being added. So, all tigers here fast on Saturdays. What they take is only water during fasting," he said.

The tigers are called by their different names such as Bange (age 18), Maharaja (age 13), Bagaura (age 12), Pratap (age 9), Jagati (age 8) and Maharani (age 5).

The five-year-old Maharani was released into the Zoo on April 23 after it attacked and killed a woman in Kanchanpur district. On April 21, the tiger straying into Pachui village of Belauri Municpality-8 attacked and killed one Ganga Devi Chand, 42.

Following this, a joint team of the Division Forest Office, Kanchanpur, the park office, the Nepal Police, the Armed Police Force, the Nepal Army, the Shuklaphanta Conservation office took her under control and released in the zoo. Now, she has been kept in quarantine.

In the first initial days, she refused to eat. Pratap (male) and Jagati (female) have been kept together, and plan is afoot to keep Maharani with Maharaj after her health improves, said Koirala.

Source: National News Agency Nepal

Mid-day meal becoming effective in learning

Sudeep Magar, a student of Grade 5 at Shree Secondary School, Rajena located in Ghorahi sub-metropolis-18 is elated to have lunch at school.

Likewise, Samjhana Nepali, studying in Grade 6 in the same school, is happier when the schedule for kheer or rice pudding comes. The school has made a schedule to serve halwa on Sunday, gram curry on Monday, kheer on Tuesday, chiura/pulau on Wednesday, khichadi/chiura on Friday and eggs on Friday.

Following the implementation of the midday meal program, many children are attending school regularly. Along with reducing the financial burden on parents, it has also encouraged students tp attend school regularly.

More than 715 students of the school enjoy free meals. Principal of the school, Uddhav Neupane, said that the program has also helped in maintaining the quality of education, along with nutrition for the children.

Rammani Pandey, the coordinator of the education committee and spokesperson of Ghorahi sub-metropolitan city, shared that the program was found to be very effective and useful for children.

In Ghorahi, 93 public schools are implementing the mid-day meal program. There are about 15,000 students in Ghorahi. The program has been implemented by making a work schedule to provide 180 days of daily lunch.

Deputy Mayor Huma DC said that the program has also discouraged the consumption of junk food and improved eating habits of the children.

Source: National News Agency Nepal

UDMC meeting held in Fulchhari

A special meeting for the members of Fulchhari Upazila Disaster Management Committee (UDMC) was held at the conference room of the upazila parishad here this morning.

The meeting was arranged to help the victims for reducing their sufferings and losses caused by seasonal floods and cyclones.

Presided over by Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Fulchhari Anisur Rahman, the meeting was addressed among others by Upazila Chairman GM Salim Pervez, Upazila Project Implementation Officer Shahiduzzaman Shameem, Upzila Rural Development Officer Sohel Rana, Kanchipara Union Parishad Chairman Sohel Rana Salu, Fulchhari Union Parishad Chairman Azharul Hannan and Gozaria Union Parishad Chairman Golam Mostafa Kamal Pasha.

The speakers in their speeches said as the river Brahmaputra, one of the mighty rivers of the country, has flown through the upazila, the people of the chars and river basin people of the upazila face seasonal floods every year and for this they suffered a lot.

If the early preparedness is taken and the affected people are made aware about the flood, the extent of sufferings and losses caused by the floods would reduce significantly, they commented.

After elaborate discussion, various preparations were taken to face the seasonal floods in a bid to reduce the losses of life and properties.

Apart from this, working plans have also taken in the meeting to save the chars and river basin people from the possible hit of Mocha.

Almost all the members of the UDMC, social workers, NGO activists and journalists took part in the meeting.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha