ACT Rapid Response Payment Request No. 5/2009: Orissa Tornado, India

News and Press Release
Originally published


Funds Sent To: Lutheran World Service India

Amount Sent: US$ 54,082

Date: 9 April 2009

Details of Response

Emergency: Orissa Tornado

Date of Emergency: 31 March 2009

Implementing Member(s): Lutheran World Service India

Details of the Emergency:

A "tornado" or more appropriately "dust devil" unleashed its fury on 31st March in Kendrapara district in the State of Orissa. At about 4 pm, Rajkonika block in Kendrapara district experienced the devastating power of the dust devil which uprooted trees and houses destroying almost everything in its path, leaving behind a trail of massive destruction. Villagers mourn "it looked like the trunk of an elephant touching the ground and approaching our village at high speed". The spiraling huge black cloud sucked up everything into its vortex; the accompanying hailstorm destroyed what the cloud left behind. These communities are not strangers to natural disasters- floods and cyclones routinely destroy lives and livelihoods every year. But this was an unusual weather extreme for which the communities were totally unprepared. This opens yet another new chapter in the disaster history of these impoverished rural communities.

The disaster has completely destroyed fifteen villages, affected more than 4500 families, killed ten people (unofficial death estimate is more than 70) and injured hundreds of people. According to current official estimates close to 2000 houses have been completely destroyed. Winds at speeds exceeding 200 kilometer per hour ripped off concrete roofs of schools, hospitals and government buildings and flung them at distance of 25 to 30 feet; uprooted electric poles, snapped telephone and electric wires. Most rural poor in the region live in houses built of bamboos and thatches and such houses have completely collapsed. The winds and the hailstorm destroyed standing crops, drinking water sources, caused massive destruction to other village infrastructure and means of livelihood.

Government agencies and NGOs are continuing search and rescue operations. Survivors have been shifted to safer places, in schools or other office buildings in nearby villages. 80% of the affected population continue to live in makeshift shelters close to their destroyed/damaged houses. Injured people have been admitted to hospitals. The local hospital buildings were damaged, yet are providing medical care to the injured. Proper medical care is a serious problem. Animal carcasses and debris were scattered all over the area exacerbating the vulnerability of the people. There has been large scale displacement of people from the area; whereabouts of many people are not known. Stored food grains and other household items have been destroyed or damaged. Non food items like cooking utensils, firewood, clothes, books and other household resources have been damaged. Availability of and access to safe water is a serious problem. Affected communities and bereaved families are traumatized. A crisis for food and water is anticipated. Children, women and the aged without care givers would be the most vulnerable. The schools situated in the worst affected villages were fully damaged. Students cannot return to schools in the immediate future. The continuation of education for school children is uncertain. Farmers have lost crops and cattle; those engaged in non farm activities have lost their means of livelihood. Access to livelihood assets will be one of the key concerns in the post disaster situation.

Relief package has been announced by the State Government but may not materialize immediately. Since elections to state legislative assembly and national parliament are due within the next one month, a model Code of Conduct is in place, restricting an immediate humanitarian response by the state. Competing political parties, vying for votes, are expected to disrupt operations by non governmental organizations. The situation is serious and immediate actions are required to protect people from severe consequences.