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Orissa may take a year to recover from cyclone, says aid agency

Millions affected, many left without homes or livelihoods

Orissa may take a year to recover from cyclone, says aid agency

The extensive damage caused by Phailin affected 10 million people

Ritu Sharma, Ganjam

October 18, 2013

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Coastal areas in Orrissa could take a year to recover from the devastation of Cyclone Phailin, according to Catholic Relief Services, with some 10 million people affected, many of them homeless.

John Shumlansky, India head of CRS, said the organization was still assessing the fallout from the huge tropical storm which battered India’s eastern coast on Saturday, killing 25 people.

“The destruction and the impact are massive,” he said in Orissa’s heavily damaged state capital, Bhubaneswar. “Nothing could escape nature’s fury.”

The toll could have been much worse were it not for mass evacuations, prompting the UN to call India’s preparations for the giant storm a “landmark success story in disaster management”.

CRS is among numerous relief agencies, including the government, delivering aid to the worst hit coastal towns of Ganjam, Balasore and Puri.

In Ganjam, home to more than 3.5 million people, nearly a quarter of a million houses were destroyed and crops have been wiped out with total damage estimated at 30 billion rupees (US$487 million) in the town alone.

“It will take more than a year to bring the people’s lives back on track,” said Shumlansky.

In Balasore, the district worst affected by flooding, an estimated 900,000 people have been displaced as vast areas remain under water.

“We need to think about Balasore as water is standing there and creating problems as compared to other places where the cyclone has come and gone and people have started bringing their lives [back] to normal,” said Shumlansky.

People are going back to their damaged or destroyed houses without any belongings, he said, and many have seen their means of earning a living destroyed.

In the small town of Anjirapally, 10km down the coast from Ganjam, some 12,000 fishermen have urged the government to replace or repair their damage, destroyed and lost boats so they can feed their families again.

“We do not want any relief from the government. We want help to restore our fishing livelihoods,” said B. Simadari, head of the town’s fishing community.

Like other affected communities, people in Anjirapally have received 500 rupees and rice in immediate aid from the government.

A small town of just 2,400 families, Anjirapally was among the first places to be hit by Phailin when it reached the east Indian coast at around 8.15pm on Saturday.

“It is quite visible from the destruction around that our village bore the maximum brunt but we don’t want to be dependent on the government. That would make us useless,” Simadari said.

With the financial toll from Phailin expected to reach billions of dollars and the Indian Prime Minister promising 200,000 rupees ($3,234) to the families of each of the 25 victims, it remains to be seen whether authorities will commit the $5,000 to $16,000 required to replace the hundreds of fishing vessels lost.

“That is a lot of money. We cannot afford this much,” said Simadari.

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