Cyclone Phaillin: Devastated People Await Relief

On the night of 12 October cyclone Phaillin with a wind speed of 250 kmph hit the entire coast of Odisha with the eye of the storm centred at Gopalpur in Ganjam district. Around 17 districts were affected, Ganjam, Puri and Khurda being the worst hit. Other districts like Jagatsingpur, Kendrapara, Nayagarh, Kandhamal, Gajapati were also affected.

Two days after Phaillin severe floods affected 6 districts including Baleswar, Bhadark, Jajpur and Mayurbhanj. In addition to loss of human lives, Phaillin wreaked havoc on agriculture, natural resources, educational institutions and infrastructure. The combined disasters of cyclone and floods took a toll of around 44 lives. 1.37 lakhs were affected, and over 6.71 lakh hectares of agricultural land, 4.19 lakh houses and 26 lakh trees damaged.

Apart from coastal damage, Phaillin has devastated forests as well as communication and tourism infrastructure, with the electricity board suffering a loss of 900 crore. 1.70 lakh birds have died. In all 18,374 villages and 2164 grampanchayats of the State have been affected.

In spite of continuous news and alerts about the cyclone in the print and electronic media, a panic situation prevailed with prices of essential commodities spiraling and the BJD government unable to control it. The Naveen Patnaik government is basking in the praise being showered from different quarters for the success of the much publicized evacuation exercise. While timely evacuation has certainly minimized human casualty, the real challenge now is to rehabilitate the evacuated people most of whom have lost their all and will have to virtually rebuild their lives.

Relief measures in cyclone shelters are far from adequate or satisfactory. Even after 7 days of the huge devastation in Ganjam, people are yet to receive any relief or rehabilitation in spite of the state and central governments declaring compensation of Rs 4 lakh and 2 lakh respectively to the families of the dead.

The Central government is trying to compete with the state government to claim credit for disaster management, but is yet to make any specific commitment to expedite and improve relief and rehabilitation efforts.

The CPI(ML) is trying to organize relief work in some of the worst affected villages. Party workers braved the violence of ruling party goons in Pipli block where they organized a gherao demanding proper relief work with full transparency and without any discrimination. In the Chilka area, many fishermen have lost their boats and nets, but so far no government officials have even undertaken an assessment of their losses. The CPI(ML) and mass organizations like AIKM, AIALA and AICCTU are fighting for provision of adequate compensation and effective rehabilitation measures for the disaster-hit population.

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