Speedy action save lives but Phailin leaves a trail of destruction | ActionAid India
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Speedy action save lives but Phailin leaves a trail of destruction

Author: Susan Thomas
Posted on: Thursday, 17th October 2013

“While we must laud the quick response of the government and civil society in conducting the biggest ever evacuations that saved thousands of lives, we cannot afford to sit back and pat our backs,” said Debabrat Patra, Regional Manager, Odisha, ActionAid India. 

“Now more than ever, the people need our support. Communities that were already in poverty have been pushed deeper into it as their lives are saved but they have lost everything else,” he added.

Super Cyclone Phailin made landfall at about 9 PM (IST) on 12th October 2013 over the shores of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. With winds up to 220 Km/h, it forced huge waves far inland that destroyed fishing hamlets and equipment, flooded homes and agricultural lands.  

The Cyclone’s effects were felt much before as well as after, with strong winds uprooting trees and heavy rainfall causing much destruction on the poor and vulnerable communities with thatched roofs, crops almost ready to be harvested and boats and fishing nets stored in the open.

Government officials acted fast by evacuating 8,73,643 people in Odisha and 65,700 in Andhra Pradesh before the cyclone hit the coast, thus reducing drastically the human casualty. The official figures peg human casualty at 27 as of date.

The cyclone affected 15 districts in Odisha, of which the worst affected are Ganjam, Gajapati, Khurda, Puri, Jagatsinghpur. Government figures estimate that nearly 1,45,014 villages and 39 urban bodies were affected. The official reports say that nearly 80,53,626 people were affected.

The super-cyclone destroyed over 3 lakh hectares of agricultural crops in Odisha alone. In Andhra Pradesh nearly 12,923 hectares of crops were washed away.

The loss of livestock and other animals is huge and the destruction of livelihood nearly total.

“The challenge that lies before the government and civil society is immense. People whose lives were saved by the shelters, started returning soon after the rains let up,” shared Debabrat. “But many do not have anything but a broken wall to go back to,” he added.

Speaking from Srikakulam (Andhra Pradesh) that borders Odisha and was in the path of the Phailin, Raghu P, Regional Manager, Andhra Pradesh, ActionAid India said “We were happy to note that the extent of damage was not as much as we had feared, but the poor fishing community, that was already pushed by the economic situation to migrate as far away as Gujarat, were severely affected.”

While the weather cleared up by 14th October, the heavy rains caused floods in many parts, including Mayubhanj and Bhadrak claiming four lives.

With over one crore people hit by Cyclone Phailin in Odisha, the state government announced food assistance packages almost immediately for the families living in affected villages. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik announced food assistance packages of 14 days and 7 days for ‘very severely affected’ and ‘severely affected’ villages respectively. The packages are of 50 kilograms of rice and INR 400 cash each for lentils per family.

From our rapid assessments of the situation in our Local Rights Programme (long term intervention) areas we have seen that the immediate needs of the people are:

  • Food
  • Drinking water
  • Medicine and Health camps
  • Utensils
  • Dresses for children
  • Tarpaulin 
  • The Medium Term requirements we perceive are:
  • Cash for work for cleaning the debris and rebuilding of the mud houses
  • Flood resistant Shelters
  • Revival of Livelihoods 

Banamali Kandi, 75 years old, person with disability, from Junglebari village, Astaranga block in Puri, stands in front of his banana and papaya trees devastated by Super Cyclone Phailin. He had 200 banana trees and 20 papaya trees which are now flattened by cyclone. “I have lost more than INR 1,20,000 worth of crops and this will be hard to recover. In addition to this I have lost crops that stood on my one acre of land,” he added.

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Baladiha village in Nagar Gram Panchayat in Astaranga, Odisha is primarily a fisher folk’s village with about 300 households. At least 96 mud houses have been devastated. The village is strewn with debris.

They have got no relief yet. Most of them have no money to hire the boat and nets to go fishing. No work is available to these fishermen for their livelihoods. They are not able to cook their food since the entire village has been water logged and there is no safe drinking water and firewood and for cooking. It is difficult to sleep in the night as the house is on the brink of collapse and there are still intermittent rains.

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Kukuma Behera, 70 and Kusi Behera, 80 have both lost their homes in Baladiha village in Nagar Gram Panchayat in Astaranga, Odisha. “I am old, landless and unwell. My wife goes for daily wage labour linked to fishing but due to cyclone, this is also not possible. We are now helpless and can’t think of any way out of this deep trouble,” shared Kusi Behera. “We have also not got any relief in the cyclone. We had taken shelter in the nearest high school about 3 km away at Athatira but we did not receive any cooked food. We are back at home but struggling to survive and have no proper place to cook. Water in the village is also contaminated. Since the entire village has been water logged and strewn with debris, we are now worried about water borne diseases and snakes,” he added.

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(Our staff on the ground are continuosly assessing the situation and the stories we hear are often very distressing. To read about our work and relief/rehabilitation needs,click here)