NEW DELHI — A cyclone tore through parts of Bangladesh on Tuesday, destroying the homes of thousands of Rohingya refugees who had fled the violence in Myanmar over the last several years.
Authorities in the affected districts of Cox’s Bazar and Chittagong evacuated 450,000 people in advance of Cyclone Mora, officials said. In the coastal border district of Cox’s Bazar, where the majority of the Rohingya in Bangladesh live, 17,000 houses were destroyed and 35,000 damaged, said Mohammad Ali Hossain, deputy commissioner in Cox’s Bazar.
Four people were killed in the Cox’s Bazar district and 60 were injured. Officials in Chittagong said there were no casualties reported as of Tuesday afternoon.
“The storm was really frightening,” said Rasel Uddin, an official with the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics in Cox’s Bazar. “The winds were so strong, I watched a giant eucalyptus tree, dozens of feet tall, getting bent to the point where it was almost flat on the ground. It would straighten, then the winds would blow it back to the point where it was flat again.”
Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya, the Muslim minority community from Buddhist-majority Myanmar, have fled to Bangladesh in recent years, where they live in official and makeshift refugee camps. The numbers have swelled since 2012, and in October and November of last year about 65,000 more arrived after a crackdown by Myanmar’s army.
The Rohingya refugees’ rickety houses offered little resistance to the storm’s high winds, officials said.
“There isn’t a single refugee home that hasn’t had its roof blown off,” said Mohammad Imran, a Rohingya who lives in a makeshift camp in Kutupalong, in Cox’s Bazar district.
“The Rohingya live in small shacks — we describe them as barely standing — so they have been devastated,” Uddin said. “But also many Bangladeshi families in the area who live in homes like that have been affected the same.”
Uddin said the repairs in the district would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
John McKissick, head of the Cox’s Bazar office of the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees, said the agency was working on assessing the damage.