The cyclone can impact low-lying & flood-prone areas in Rakhine
Cyclone Mocha, which formed over the southeast Bay of Bengal on May 11, intensified into a very severe cyclonic storm on Thursday, according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD).
The cyclone, predicted to make landfall on May 14, is moving at the speed of 13 kilometres per hour against the 6 kmph recorded on Wednesday. Mocha is expected to have a maximum sustained wind speed of 150-160 kmph, gusting up to 175 kmph, IMD said in a press statement on May 12.
The very severe cyclonic storm may intensify further to an extremely severe cyclonic storm with a speed range of 167-221 kmph, according to Skymet Weather Services. It intensified much before the estimated timeline, the forecast stated. Further intensification will occur over the next 24 hours.
If it materialises, the cyclone will be the strongest after cyclone Giri, which hit Myanmar in 2010. The recorded speed of Giri was 250 kmph. Mocha is likely to bring “big humanitarian impacts” over Bangladesh and Myanmar, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Thursday.
“The ‘Super Cyclone’ equivalent to a Category-IV hurricane are associated with winds in excess of 221 kmph,” a statement from Skymet Weather Services stated.
The heat potential of the Central Bay of Bengal is very high. And cyclone Mocha stands a chance to even breach gusty wind speed in excess of 220 kmph while over the sea and brace the most dominant category of a super cyclone,” a statement from Skymet Weather Services stated.
It further explained that off-shore Myanmar has a relatively cooler sea surface. This may result in dropping the heat potential and weakening of the cyclone before its landfall. Mocha is expected to make landfall between Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh and Kyaukpyu in Myanmar around the afternoon on May 14.
The cyclone is likely to hit the Arakan coast that stretches from the Bangladesh border towards the south to Cape Negrais Peninsula in Myanmar mountain ranges. The location may weaken heat potential due to lower friction between the mountain ridges.
However, “the intensity, spread and ferocity of Mocha may match the catastrophic potential of extremely severe cyclonic storm Nargis, which struck the Irrawaddy delta — Central Coast of Myanmar — with unprecedented intensity on May 2, 2008, estimated Skymet.
“The storm will dangerously impact the southern shore of Bangladesh as well, with gale winds and torrential rains. Mocha will weaken rapidly after striking the coast and moving inland,” it added.
The cyclone can impact areas in Rakhine that are low-lying and highly prone to flooding. Heavy rains and strong winds are later expected to hit inland communities in the northwest, which are also prone to landslides and flooding,” according to a statement released by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
About six million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, and 1.2 million people have already been displaced across Rakhine and Northwest Myanmar, even before the cyclone, it estimated. Nearly a million Rohingya refugees are also under threat.
Humanitarian Emergency Response Preparedness Plan has been activated across the nation since the beginning of the week. Humanitarian organisations have escalated preparedness in Rakhine and northwest Myanmar, OCHA stated.
The cyclone, however, is making a slower recurve than estimated, said Raghu Murtugudde, a climate scientist at the University of Maryland and Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay. The IMD had estimated that the cyclone would start changing its path towards Myanmar on May 12.
“Mocha is making a slower turn since it mostly went north instead of northwest,” he said.
The intensity of the cyclone is a crucial aspect. “The Bay of Bengal is already warm and high sea levels with temperatures around 30 degrees celsius are highly conducive for intensification of the storm. We have to observe how quickly it intensifies. The tides are likely to add storm surge,” he said.
The Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System estimated a storm surge of up to 2 meters from the astronomical height.
On being asked bout another cyclone brewing near the equator of the Indian Ocean, Murtugudde said the cyclone was weak and would move westwards.
“It is unlikely to affect the Indian monsoons as the monsoon trough is still at the Andamans,” he said. The IMD predicted that the northeastern states of India, including Tripura, Mizoram, Assam, Nagaland and Manipur, will experience heavy to very heavy rainfall between May 13 and 16. Meanwhile, West Bengal has deployed eight National Disaster Response Force teams along the coasts for precautionary measures.
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