Cyclone Phailin has caused huge damage in the Indian states of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh with three million trees uprooted and hundreds of thousands of homes damaged, ActionAid said today.
The government has said that more than eight million people have been affected across 14,515 villages in Odisha alone. Three hundred thousand hectares of crops have been damaged.
Describing the situation over the phone from Sonepur, which is about 300 kms from Ganjam, the worst affected district, Ghasiram Panda, Programme Manager for ActionAid India said, “Our partners in the worst affected parts are trying to send in as much information but the communication is slow and patchy as telephone and electricity lines are down and their phones and laptops are running on low battery. Our assessment teams are also waiting for the weather and roads to clear up.
“We are yet to access the rural areas, so a clearer picture of the true extent of damage will emerge only in a day or two. But from the early reports we’ve received from our partners on the ground it appears that damage to crops, nets, boats, kuccha (non-cemented) houses and other small infrastructure appears extensive. Over 3,000,000 trees have been uprooted, electricity and communication lines have been damaged,” added Mr Panda. “Over 230,000 houses have been damaged in Ganjam alone,” he added.
“Our partners had informed us last evening before the cyclone made landfall that some of our project areas, such as some villages of Buguda, Polasara blocks of Ganjam dist did not even have any permanent or cemented school buildings to take shelter in, so they remained in their own thatched roof houses, which may be badly affected, though they were further inland. But the weather should improve by tomorrow and the trees blocking the roads should also be moved by then.”
The cyclone wreaked havoc across a huge area, however due to the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people from their homes to cyclone shelters and large buildings, the death toll is so far reported to be low. The storm is now moving towards the states of Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh. This has prompted concerns of the possibility of floods in the Mahanadi River that originates in Chattisgarh and flows into Odisha.
“The officials had released some amount of water from the Hirakud dam at Sambalpur (Odisha) that had reached its full capacity yesterday, but fresh warnings of heavy rainfall in Chattisgarh requires us to be vigilant to a possibility of floods in Odisha,” said Debabrat Patra, ActionAid’s Regional Manager for Odisha.
“With the weather clearing up even a little, most of the people in the shelter seem to be returning to their villages to salvage what little they can,” he said.
Mr Patra praised the government for the evacuation process but said: “The main challenge facing the government and civil society now is to rebuild livelihoods for the people primarily dependent on agriculture, since the loss of crops has been tremendous.”
Sandeep Chachra, Executive Director for ActionAid India said: “We’re relieved that the cyclone did not turn out to be as bad as earlier expected. The loss of life has been contained this time with early information and speedy action from the government evacuating nearly 900,000 people.”