Eighty-year-old Amir Ali evacuated to a World Vision-supported cyclone center in Bangladesh. Thousands have been relocated to higher grounds and concrete buildings in anticipation of Cyclone Mahasen making landfall in the country. Photo by: World Vision

As a powerful cyclone threatens to make landfall anytime in Myanmar, India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, aid groups are helping locals brace for the worst, while also mobilizing their own emergency response.

“This part of the world is regularly hit by major cyclones and so everyone is taking this threat extremely seriously and making sure the right measures are in place to mitigate the impact and place everyone on alert,” Oliver Lacey-Hall, head of OCHA’s regional office for Asia and the Pacific, said in a statement.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has reported that humanitarian agencies in Bangladesh, the country expected to be worst-hit by the storm, have begun preparedness activities such as pre-positioning emergency supplies.

OCHA has also observed aid organizations taking other steps for disaster preparedness, including the training of community volunteers, disaster-preparedness drills and the creation of cyclone shelters in collaboration with the Bangladeshi government and vulnerable communities.

In Myanmar, where five years ago at least 138,000 people died when another cyclone ravaged the Irrawaddy Delta, U.N. agencies and NGos have begun implementing a preparedness and contingency plan formulated in March. They are also supporting the government’s evacuation efforts for tens of thousands of citizens at risk.

The U.N. Refugee Agency and OCHA, in particular, have been monitoring most of the relocation efforts and are offering displaced people information on storm updates, relocation needs and the government’s preparedness plan in Rakhine state, where religious tensions between the Muslim minority and the Buddhist army have displaced thousands of residents.

“We are very concerned about the situation of displaced people in Rakhine state, particularly those in low-lying camps, and we are working urgently with the government to find solutions that are viable,” added Lacey-Hall.

World Vision, for its part, is mobilizing a relief response across vulnerable areas in all four threatened countries in the hours before the storm’s arrival.

The Christian organization’s plan includes organizing aid workers and community volunteers, introducing community disaster response plans and assisting evacuees.

“Our staff in all four countries are working closely with their governments to maximize preparedness measures. It is better to be over-prepared in a situation where multiple countries are at risk of being impacted,” Angelina Theodora, humanitarian and emergency affairs advisor for Asia Pacific, said in a statement.

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About the author

  • Johanna Morden

    Johanna Morden is a community development worker by training and a global development journalist by profession. As a former Devex staff writer based in Manila, she covered the Asian Development Bank as well as Asia-Pacific's aid community at large. Johanna has written for a variety of international publications, covering social issues, disasters, government, ICT, business, and the law.