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Assessing damage after Cyclone Phailin


Heavy rains in the aftermath of Cyclone Phailin have made the storm a double catastrophe, submerging villages in the worst-hit areas of India`s Odisha state. Thousands of people are homeless, and more than 75,000 remain marooned by the flooding. Once the waters recede, at least 1.5 million acres of crops will have been lost.
All children served by ChildFund are safe and accounted for; many of them, however, still wait in the evacuation centres they fled to before the storm. ChildFund staff reports that homes have been damaged, especially the fragile mud-and-tin structures typical of rural villages in the area. Food and medical supplies are hard to come by, drinking water and sanitation facilities are compromised, and crops are under water. Education is disrupted, as most schools and early childhood development centres are serving as makeshift shelters for evacuees.
The loss of infrastructure brings with it a host of potential problems, most alarmingly the threat of disease. In the evacuation centres, diarrhoea is beginning to be an issue. Typhoid and upper respiratory illness may become concerns as well.
ChildFund is working to ensure that children and families remain safe and healthy during this difficult time.
Cyclone Phailin has cleared the eastern coast of India, leaving in its wake fewer than two dozen deaths, a number that brought relief amid memories of the 1999 cyclone that devastated the region and took thousands of lives.
However, Phailin left its mark across the state of Odisha, damaging or destroying nearly a quarter of a million houses and 1.25 million acres of farmland. Crop loss is estimated at nearly $400 million. Power remains down and communications disrupted.
Once again, the children and families we serve in the area were among the nearly 900,000 evacuated before the storm. ChildFund staff are currently travelling from village to village in the affected region to assess losses and needs in our three project areas. In one of them, three homes of sponsored children`s families were damaged. In another, 75 per cent of farmland was lost €” a huge concern for the 25 villages the project serves.
The Indian government has begun relief activities, and ChildFund is coordinating with them. We are also working with local health officials to protect families and children against waterborne diseases and other health risks that may arise.
Meanwhile, the region remains on alert against flooding, with three of Odisha state`s rivers swollen from the storm.
* Phailin kills at least 15
* Almost a million in shelters built after 1999 disaster
* Storm loses momentum as it heads inland
When Cyclone Phailin made landfall in India`s eastern state of Odisha at 9pm on 12 October, wind speeds were 124 mph, and heavy rain was expected for 48 hours. Children and families in ChildFund’s program areas had already been evacuated to shelters to wait out the storm in safety. As the storm wanes and moves north, heavy rain and high winds remain concerns.
ChildFund is performing a rapid needs assessment of children and families and is prepared to respond with food, water, shelter, psychosocial support and more. Teams had stockpiled essential supplies before the storm and are coordinating with local partners and authorities.
Communications are difficult, but we will provide updates as we can. For now, we can say that at least 15 lives were lost; so far, none are among the children and families ChildFund serves. A primary question now is whether they will have homes and livelihoods to return to once the storm passes.
“While any loss of life is devastating, the low number of casualties from Cyclone Phailin stands in stark contrast to the 10,000 killed by Odisha’s last big cyclone in 1999,” says Sanwar Ali, ChildFund Australia’s senior disaster risk reduction advisor. “This time, early warning information and mass evacuations to hundreds of shelters that have been built in the last decade helped save thousands of lives. This is why ChildFund and other organisations are investing in disaster risk reduction programs in all the communities where we work“ we cannot stop cyclones and floods but we can drastically reduce their impact on lives and livelihoods.”

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