Cyclone in Orissa: UNICEF Situation Report 3

Situation Report
Originally published
A super cyclonic storm with a gale speed of 250 km per hour hit Orissa State, on the East Coast of India, on Friday afternoon causing devastation and extensive damage. This is considered to be the worst cyclone in the State's history. The Indian Government has declared a national disaster, although it is doubtful that an international appeal for assistance will be made. The State Government and UNICEF are working closely together in the assessment phase to plan disaster relief.

Following on from UNICEF SITREP 1 of 20 October and UNICEF SITREP 2 of 25 October, both reporting follow-up of an earlier cyclone in Orissa dated 18 October affecting 7 districts, a super-cyclone struck the Orissa State again in the afternoon of Friday 29 October.

This SITREP pulls together information available to date from the Inter-departmental Control Room in the Ministry of Agriculture, newspaper reports, TV and media coverage and an interview with our own staff.

Pre-super-cyclone preparedness

The Representative, Alan Court, was able to keep in contact with our Bhubaneshwar office up to about 15H00 on Friday. Immediate needs were known, and our Supply and Procurement staff worked over the weekend to get supply purchase orders worth more than US$100,000 suppliers for basic health and shelter needs. The Representative has made an initial allocation of US$70,000, and has approved acceleration of programmes in the State worth US$230,000.

Current status of staff and office premises

Staff and their families are reported all safe and accounted for. One staff member, on mission in the West of Orissa, has reported that she is well and will stay put and not attempt to reach the State Capital Bhubaneshwar immediately.

The office premises are not seriously damaged. Water did enter the premises causing ground floor electrical and carpet damage. Water supply has been affected. The compound wall has been partially destroyed. The back up of all office
electronic data was prior to the cyclone hit, and this was stored at another location.

Families are reporting that their food stocks will only last for three days, and the State Representative will work out if an evacuation plan is needed for non-essential staff and families. The feasibility of using the current US$16,000 in the local bank account for cash essentials, including salary advances if needed is under discussion.

Direct Reporting from our Staff

Our State Representative Muralidharan is currently meeting with the Chief Secretary to plan emergency relief. The Chief Secretary has sent Officers to see physically for themselves the damage that has been caused. However no air transport appears available due to torrential rains that still continue into Sunday afternoon 31 October.

Dr. Ramani Atkuri has reported that all links have been severed with the rest of India. There are currently no power, no water and no food stocks available. Market prices have soared in hours of the super-cyclone hitting the state.

It is possible for staff to move around Bhubaneshwar, and one staff member is trying to reach Cuttack in an attempt to contact ORS suppliers for remaining stocks. Roads close to the coast are impassable and all train routes between Delhi and Puri are inoperable, due to large numbers of uprooted trees on the tracks.

It is still unclear which road access is available, and this assessment is being sought. We believe that the road from Hyderabad and Madhya Pradesh is passable. Coastal routes from West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh are most likely affected.

The airport is apparently open, although there are insufficient stocks of aircraft fuel at Bhubaneshwar.

The Central Government Response

Following ravaging by a super-cyclone, Orissa State still remains cut off from the rest of India. The telecommunication lines and rail/road links are still blocked. A team of four Cabinet Ministers, including the Defense and Home Ministers made an attempt to visit the affected areas. However, due to bad weather the aircraft could not land in Bhubaneshwar, the state capital.

The Prime Minister convened a special meeting of the Cabinet on Saturday evening at 1730 hrs to review the situation. In this meeting the PM announced release Rs. 300 Crores (1 crore = 10 million) to the State Government. Meanwhile, the Cabinet Secretary chaired a meeting of the National Crisis Management Committee at 1530 hrs. Certain key decisions have been taken during these meetings. The Defense Minister has mentioned to the Press that the Government is seriously considering establishment of a separate Department for Natural Disaster Management.

There is no official Report from the state regarding the damage caused due to the cyclone. The indications from unofficial sources are that about 100 people have died. About 10 million people in 8 districts have been affected due to the cyclone, which lasted for 8 hrs with winds reaching a speed of 260 Kmph. The port in Paradeep has suffered heavy damages. There is also no official report on the relief measures undertaken by the state Government. Reports are likely to come in by tomorrow morning as the government expects to restore the telecommunication links by then.

The Government of India has upgraded the Control Room in the Ministry of Agriculture as a Multi Departmental Control room with representatives from the concerned Departments/Ministries. This is to expedite the decision making process. Other measures taken by the Central Government are the following:

Deployment of 1 IL76 plane, 6 MI helicopters to airdrop foodstuff and other essential items

Supply of satellite telephone sets, portable generators and other specialized items required to restore communication links in Orissa Deployed teams of officers from the Railways, Ministry of Surface Transport and several engineers to restore rail, road and other communication links.

Deployed teams of doctors

Special efforts are being made to procure essential items from the neighbouring states Supply of essential items through sea, as surface transport links are disrupted. The Central Government has also issued special orders to the states and
Public Sector Units to provide help to Orissa.

A new list of materials has been requested of the UN and will be ordered on Monday morning

- Polythene sheets 10,000,000 meters in rolls of 40 meters
- Light blankets 20,000
- Large candles 2 million sticks
- Matches 100,000 boxes
- Chuda (flattened rice) 100,000 bags (possibly available

The Principle Resident Commissioner is being requested to help coordinate air freighting of these items.

Progress of UNICEF Operations

In a series of brief telephone calls from the Chief Secretary's Office, our staff was able to provide a list of new needs of the Government of Orissa. UNICEF staff are with the Chief Secretary to plan further emergency relief to the area.

The UN Disaster Management Team (UNDMT) is meeting in Delhi on Monday morning 1 November 1999, and will most probably contact the Multi-departmental Control Room by noon to get an update on the situation.

A Supply Project Officer, based in Mumbai, has been placed on travel alert to assist with the emergency.

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