As the region's strongest storm in more than a decade churned over the Bay of Bengal on Saturday, hundreds of thousands of people were evacuated from the beaches of Myanmar and Bangladesh.
According to the Zoom Earth website, Cyclone Mocha had gusts of up to 240 kilometres per hour (149 miles per hour), classifying it as a Super Cyclone.
Nearly a million Rohingya refugees dwell in camps mostly made up of flimsy shelters in Cox's Bazar, where the storm, which is a hazardous category four on the Saffir-Simpson scale, was anticipated to weaken before reaching landfall on Sunday morning. Sittwe is located on Myanmar's western Rakhine coast.
However, 190,000 residents in Cox's Bazar and over 100,000 in Chittagong were relocated to safety by Bangladeshi authorities, divisional commissioner Aminur Rahman said AFP late Saturday.
He said, “They were taken to almost 4,000 cyclone shelters.”
Storm surges of up to over four meters (12 feet) high, which might flood low-lying coastal and riverine settlements, were predicted by forecasters in Dhaka.
Residents of Sittwe on the opposite side of the border crammed their belongings and dogs into vehicles, trucks, and tuk-tuks and fled for higher ground on Saturday, according to AFP correspondents.
“We have our grandma in our family and we have to take care of her,” Khine Min said to AFP while speaking from a vehicle full of his family on a route outside the state's capital.
In Sittwe, there is just one guy left who can look after our dwellings.
The town of around 150,000 residents had closed stores and shops, and many residents sought refuge in monasteries.
Kyaw Tin, 40, said he was unable to leave the area because his kid was being treated at a hospital nearby.
“I'm hoping that our state will miss this cyclone. But we can't ignore it if this destiny strikes,” he remarked.
“I'm worried that this cyclone will affect our state just like Nargis did,” he said, referring to the hurricane from 2008 that claimed the lives of more than 130,000 people.
Authorities in Myanmar's junta were reportedly overseeing village evacuations from the Rakhine shore on Friday, according to state media.
According to Myanmar Airways International, all of its flights to the state of Rakhine have been canceled till Monday.
According to the Myanmar Red Cross Society, they are “getting ready for a significant emergency response.”
The construction of concrete dwellings by the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh has been prohibited by authorities out of concern that it could encourage them to remain permanently rather than go back to Myanmar, where they fled five years ago after a horrific military campaign.
At the Nayapara camp, which is close to the border town of Teknaf, refugee Enam Ahmed stated, “We live in huts constructed of canvas and bamboo.
“We're terrified. Where we shall find refuge is unknown.
The camps are often located a little bit inland, although the majority of them are situated on slopes, making them susceptible to landslides.
The storm is expected to deliver torrential rain, which might cause landslips.
Although efforts were made to shift Rohingya refugees from “risky areas” to community centers and more secure buildings like schools, Bangladesh's deputy refugee commissioner Shamsud Douza told AFP that “all the Rohingyas in the camps are at risk.”
Additionally, thousands of people moved to cyclone shelters on the coral outcrop, while hundreds more left Saint Martin's island, a nearby tourist destination directly in the line of the storm.
According to Bangladesh's meteorological department chief Azizur Rahman, “Cyclone Mocha is the most potent storm since Cyclone Sidr.”
In November 2007, a hurricane struck Bangladesh's southern coast, killing over 3,000 people and incurring billions of dollars in damage.
The Rohingya population in Myanmar's refugee camps was also preparing for the storm.
“We have serious concerns. A camp leader in Rakhine state who begged to remain anonymous for fear of penalties from the junta stated, “We might be in danger if the water level rises.
“The camp has roughly 1000 residents… We only received five life jackets, five rice bags, and oil from the government. No accommodations have been made for us by the local government.
The major seaport in Bangladesh, Chittagong, had its operations ceased, and fishing and boat transportation had also been stopped.