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Cyclone Mora ravages Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh

The cyclone has destroyed almost 10,000 thatched huts in Balukhali and Kutupalong camps

Thousands of houses in the Rohingya refugee camps have been damaged as a severe cyclonic storm battered Bangladesh’s coastal areas.

Bangladesh evacuated at least 350,000 people – about 200,000 from Cox’s Bazar and some 150,000 from Chittagong – before Cyclone Mora made landfall on Tuesday morning with heavy rains and winds of up to 117kmph.

Refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar provide shelter for an estimated 200,000 Rohingyas, who fled Myanmar to escape persecution.

Shamsul Alam, a Rohingya community leader, said almost all the 10,000 thatched huts in the Balukhali and Kutupalong camps had been destroyed in the storm.

“Most of the temporary houses in the camps have been flattened,” he told Reuters.

Omar Farukh, a community leader in Kutapalong camp, said conditions were dire: “Now we are in the open air.”

An estimated 75,000 Muslim Rohingyas are believed to have fled to Bangladesh since Burmese army launched an operation in response to insurgent attacks in last October.

Buddhist-majority Myanmar does not recognise Rohingyas, one of the most persecuted communities in the world, as citizens and dubs them ‘Bangalis’.

A UN official working with Rohingya refugees said the damage in the camps could not be assessed while the storm was raging.

“…Most people in Balukhali and Kutupalong makeshift settlements have stayed,” said the official, declining to be identified.

Weather officials however said the cyclone, which formed in the central Bay of Bengal on Sunday, was not as bad as they had feared.

Nearly 70% homes on the Saint Martin’s island have been damaged.

Cyclone Mora is expected to weaken as it moved inland towards India’s northeast. Heavy rain has been forecast for Tripura, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh.

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