On May 20, 1999 a cyclone hit the Arabian Sea coast with winds of 170 mph, submerging hundreds of villages and wreaking general devastation in coastal areas of the Sindh province. Specifically, the two affected districts within the Pakistani province are Thatta and Badin, located 112 - 312 miles southeast of Karachi, Pakistan's largest city.
The latest figures indicate that at least 300 people are confirmed dead, although there are estimates of 400 dead and an additional 9,000 missing. Conditions have been reported as horrendous, with bodies being removed from trees and mud as the sea receded, and many persons are without shelter of any kind. In total, nearly 660,000 people have been affected by this cyclone. Over 7,000 families have totally lost their homes and 29 relief camps have been set up and are currently sheltering more than 18,000 people.
Adding to the devastating situation, more than 10,000 head of cattle have been lost and all previously standing crops, in addition to all stored food and grain supplies were washed away with the cyclone.
Catholic Relief Services' Response
Since last Friday morning, Catholic Relief Services has been coordinating with the local Caritas and other organizations to assess where the needs are the greatest and which agency will cover the various affected areas. An initial assessment is now complete and Catholic Relief Services and Caritas has begun supplying food aid to thousands of the cyclone victims.
For the next 15 days, over 2,500 families in 37 villages will receive a food basket consisting of the following items:
- 2 tins (8 liters) of vegetable oil
- 8.8 pounds of lentils
- 132 pounds of wheat flour
- 17.6 pounds of sugar
- 2.2 pounds of tea leaves
- 8 bars of toilet soap
- 8 bars of laundry soap
Additional efforts include agency coordination with Church World Service in Karachi, which has launched an appeal for food and shelter materials aimed at an additional 1,000 people.