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Displaced thousands sleep hungry in India weeks after cyclone

The disaster struck when dioceses had already spent their resources to help the pandemic-affected poor

Displaced thousands sleep hungry in India weeks after cyclone

Villagers wait for lunch in a relief camp in Kulpi, some 60 kilometers south of Kolkata, capital of India's West Bengal state, on June 6. Thousands like them are living in relief camps and temporary shelters after Cyclone Yaas destroyed their homes. (Photo: Debajyoti Chakraborty/AFP)

Thousands of people continue to sleep in temporary tarpaulin shelters without food in eastern India almost a month after Cyclone Yaas destroyed their homes and stored food grains.

At least 10 million people in West Bengal and half a million in Odisha state were displaced when high-velocity winds with heavy rains thrashed eastern India as Yaas made landfall on May 26.

The most affected are in Baruipur Diocese and part of the Archdiocese of Kolkata in West Bengal and Balasore Diocese in Odisha, church officials said.

“Thousands of families have nothing to eat, drink or wear as the cyclonic storm destroyed their mud houses and washed away all their belongings including dry food stored for this season,” said Father Parimal Kanji.

Father Kanji, who directs the social work department of Baruipur Diocese, told UCA News on June 17 that church groups are now supporting close to 2,000 families with dry rations.

“Thousands of people are still living in temporary shelters with no basic facilities and food in our diocese,” he said.

The government help will take time to reach them because of bureaucratic formalities

He said that although the cyclone killed only 20 people across India and Bangladesh, in his diocesan area alone some 500,000 people have lost their homes and need immediate help.

“They need food, shelter and clothing primarily. The government help will take time to reach them because of bureaucratic formalities,” Father Kanji said, appealing for support. “We have limited resources and are unable to feed everyone.” 

The Archdiocese of Kolkata has started mobilizing resources to supply dry rations to nearly 12,000 families badly affected by the disaster.

“We have started distributions of dry rations to families who have been left with nothing,” said Father Franklin Menezes, who directs social work in the archdiocese.

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Father Menezes told UCA News on June 17 that the archdiocese has distributed dry rations to close to 4,000 people since the cyclone struck.

“We have identified more than 7,000 families badly in need of help and want to support them as well. But we have no resources,” he added.

“There are people needing all kinds of support, but we are helpless as our funds are already thin because of Covid-19 relief work. Still, we are trying our best to help the people as much as we can.”

The situation in Odisha’s Balasore Diocese is no different.

“We are also struggling to support those in need,” said Father Lijo George, who directs social service projects there.

“Our people here lead a hand-to-mouth existence. They were rendered destitute when the cyclone destroyed their crops and houses. At least for one year, they cannot farm now because their lands were filled with saline seawater.” 

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