Cyclone leaves destruction and homelessness in India – but many lives saved by quick action

Cyclone leaves destruction and homelessness in India - but many lives saved by quick action

Oxfam India will provide water, sanitation and shelter to 60,000 people affected by Cyclone Phailin. The storm, one of the country’s biggest natural disasters in years, left India on Sunday leaving almost 9 million people affected.

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Winds of up to 125 mph destroyed 300,000 hectares of crops and damaged over 200,000 houses, some beyond repair. Phailin will cost India upwards of £240 million.

However, the most staggering statistic is that just 23 people were reported to been killed. In the same area in 1999 a cyclone killed more than 10,000 people. This time authorities moved nearly a million people into temporary shelters in schools and government buildings.

Oxfam India Humanitarian Programme Manager Zubin Zaman said “Our initial assessment on the ground is that many lives were undoubtedly saved because of quick action by the governments of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. They used effective cyclone early warning systems and excellent coordination between agencies to get everybody out to safety in time.”

“However, hundreds of thousands of people are now displaced and immediately need safe water and sanitation. Some need emergency shelter. It is important that local administrators continue to supply food aid over a sustained period of time to meet people’s needs.”

Oxfam India is also distributing chlorine tablets to purify water, and plan to send in hygiene kits and emergency shelter. Oxfam India will focus Chattarpur and Ganjam block in Ganjam district and in Puri district. Oxfam India plans to reach initially 60,000 affected people with the help of local partners, Unites Artists Association and Solar.

Oxfam’s Humanitarian Director Carsten Voelz said the Indian state deserved plaudits for speedy pre-emptive action. “Moving a million people into safety in such a short time is a staggering achievement, testament to good planning and communications,” he said.

“These kinds of improvements in technical measures to protect people against killer storms are important -especially because climate change will bring more and worse storms. However the wider humanitarian community still needs to look deeper about why poor people are always most vulnerable in the first place.”

Voelz said that Oxfam’s humanitarian programme work around the world is contributing to improving people’s resilience by tackling the issues that make them more susceptible to crises in the first place.

“India deserves credit for having learned from 1999 and for saving so many lives this time with quick decisive action. And Oxfam will be there as ever to help build their lives back better,” he said. “However the only way that all countries are going to fundamentally reduce risk to poor people is by tackling inequality and poor services and social protection. The only way to stop poor people being so utterly vulnerable to crises is to stop them from being poor.”


Photograph REUTERS/Adnan Abidi (Courtesy of AlertNet)

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