India

India Orissa Cyclone: Building for the future

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Just over three months after a devastating cyclone struck the Indian coastal state of Orissa, killing an estimated 10,000 people and destroying or damaging 1.7 million homes, the rehabilitation process has begun.
The Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS), with support from the Federation, is now targetting 5,000 particularly vulnerable families. Among them, 23-year-old Shanti Behera and her baby son, Dushasan. Shanti, who comes from the area worst affected by the super-cyclone "5B", narrowly escaped death last October when she climbed up the nearest tree with her baby tied to her as the tidal surge hit her village and clung on for 24 hours. She watched helplessly as her husband and eldest son were swept away. Like millions of other people, Shanti's life and home had been totally destroyed.

But now there is some hope. As part of an integrated rehabilitation programme devised to provide improved safety for the population along the coastal belt, Shanti will be given a cyclone-resistant home made with concrete blocks, a strong foundation and a flat concrete roof. The house should withstand falling trees, strong winds and even a tidal wave. It's a new concept for most of the people along the coastal belt who until the cyclone hit, had been living in mud houses with straw roofs.

In a bid to get people to help themselves, local people are being taught construction techniques by skilled masons. Each village has a model house built by a mason which he's used to train the people. The Red Cross has now begun supplying building materials to beneficiaries so that they can begin building their new homes under the supervision of the masons.

For the especially vulnerable like Shanti and Dushasan - they will be given a model home. The other people in Shanti's village will also benefit from the Red Cross. A cyclone-resistant tube well will be built as well as a community building with a reinforced structure that can act as a cyclone shelter.

More than 44,000 people are thought to have been saved from the super-cyclone by 23 Red Cross cyclone shelters along the most vulnerable parts of the Orissa coastline.These new shelters will go some way to saving more lives in the future.

=A91997 International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies