ATLANTA (December 16, 1999) - The international relief and development organization CARE will begin the new year by working with communities in the state of Orissa, along the eastern coast of India, to help them better prepare for, and recover from, natural disasters. Hundreds of concrete shelters and an education program will be provided for people in the disaster-prone region. The initiatives will help families cope with calamities like the two cyclones in October, which claimed more than 10,000 lives and left more than 7 million people homeless.
CARE will work with 11 of the worst-hit regions in Orissa, which have a combined population of 1.5 million, to build community shelters. Twenty cement shelters - to double as primary schools and pre-school centers - are being built for each region. In addition, a minimum of six larger centers will be erected to serve as secondary schools, community health centers and disaster training sites.
To encourage people to seek refuge in the shelters, CARE is collaborating with the India Gandhi National Open University, one of the largest universities in India, to offer a disaster education program to 1,000 communities along the coast of Orissa.
While most people in the area are familiar with cyclones and even know how to swim, they may not fully realize the dynamics and potential impact of the storms.
For example, after touring the cyclone's destruction, Tom Alcedo, director for CARE in India, described an encounter with a man who appeared dazed and disoriented. "During the deceiving calm of the eye of the storm, he came outside with his family so his two children could play. When it began raining, he looked toward the beach - more than 2 miles away - and saw a 25-foot wall of water coming toward him. He grabbed the children and started running. The wave hit them and the next thing he knew, he was in a tree and his family was nowhere to be found."
During the cyclone that struck on October 29, many people were caught off-guard by walls of water that came inland in waves up to 25-feet high, causing thousands to drown. In addition, families are often reluctant to leave their homes and possessions, fearing that what little they have will be stolen.
In order to reduce vulnerability to severe weather, the program will teach people the importance of responding to cyclone warnings by seeking safety in concrete shelters, sharing information with friends and neighbors, and dissuading fishermen from going out to sea. Participants also will learn how to treat contaminated water with chlorine tablets in the event they're caught in a crisis similar to the October cyclones.
To date, CARE has committed more than $8 million to relief and rehabilitation efforts in Orissa following the October 17 and 29 cyclones.