Aid worker provides first-hand account
of devastation and recovery efforts
ATLANTA (January 6, 2000) --The cyclone-devastated capital of India's Orissa state of Bhubaneswar looks like a ghost city, and the 14 severely affected coastal districts present a picture of total destruction, according to Basant Mohanty, CARE's program director in Orissa.
"Almost every tree was uprooted and many houses severely damaged in Bhubaneswar," says Mohanty. "Recovery from this will be a gigantic task."
In October 1999, two cyclones tore through Orissa, killing more than 10,000 people and severely affecting some 15 million people. The cyclones leveled an estimated 3 million homes - leaving more than 7 million people homeless.
The first cyclone hit the coastal area with moderate intensity on October 17. The second one, a super-cyclone with wind speeds nearing 200 miles per hour and tidal waves that rose up to 20 feet in height, hit 14 districts on October 29. In all, 40 villages were swept away and nothing was left along the nearly 300-mile coastline. The worst affected were Puri, Cuttack, Jagatsinghpur, Jajpur, Balasore, Ganjam and Gajapati districts.
CARE staff were first to reach the affected areas with relief materials, according to Mohanty. Some 50 trucks full of food and other supplies were rushed to the southern districts of Orissa. Similarly, relief materials arrived from CARE in West Bengal to Balasore in northern Orissa. CARE also airdropped 50,000 bags of corn-soy blend food for the people living in areas not accessible by road.
"Within a short amount of time," Mohanty noted, "CARE had reached more than one million people with food aid, 242,500 people with plastic sheeting for shelter, 65,000 people with blankets and 45,000 people with lanterns, candles and matches."
To ensure supplies of pure drinking water, CARE has set up two water treatment plants at Erasama and Kujang. These two plants are delivering 2,600 gallons of drinking water per hour, which is being distributed via 20 tanker trucks.
Mohanty said some 40,000 fishermen's families have lost everything in the cyclone. Efforts are being made to provide them with boats and fishing nets so they can resume earning their livelihood as soon as possible. Also, cash crops worth more than $23 million have been destroyed in the 10 most affected districts.
"As an immediate relief measure to make nutritious fruits and food available," Mohanty said, "farmers have been given seeds and seedlings to raise fast-growing and high-yielding fruit plants, and - in the coastal areas - seeds and saplings to grow main crops like betel-vine and coconut palms."
As part of its rehabilitation work, CARE is concentrating on the reconstruction of houses and public buildings, such as schools, primary health centers and community centers. According to Mohanty, "these public buildings will serve a dual purpose - as schools and health centers in normal time, and during storms, they will be used as cyclone shelters. Many lives were lost in the cyclone for want of shelters."
To provide employment, road-laying work has been undertaken as part of a "food-for-work" program. "Many roads were damaged by flood waters, and to restart economic activity, there is an urgent need for repairs and relaying of roads," said Mohanty.
CARE in India
CARE has a long background in assisting with relief and rehabilitation efforts in India. It was involved in flood relief in West Bengal in 1979, and Orissa in 1992. It also worked in Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh when cyclones hit those states in 1977. It also helped survivors of earthquakes in Lature, Maharashtra, and Chamoli in Uttar Pradesh.
So far, CARE has provided relief worth $6.4 million to survivors of the October cyclones. To take up rehabilitation programs, CARE needs another $5 million. To contribute to relief and rehabilitation works in Orissa, call 1-800-422-7385 or click here to make an online donation.
CARE is one of the world's largest private relief and development organizations, with projects in more than 60 countries. CARE's work in India began on March 6, 1950. It now implements projects in nutrition, health care, small enterprise development and basic and girls' education, and provides emergency relief as needed. CARE's offices in India have a staff of 475. They work in eight states: Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Rajastan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. CARE also works in the neighboring countries of Bangladesh and Nepal.
CONTACT: Allen Clinton, 404-681-4579 ext. 206