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Evacuation plan saves thousands as cyclone hits India

18 October 2013


THE number of deaths caused by the latest cyclone to hit India is "minimal" charities say, after nearly 900,000 people were evacuated from their homes in advance of the storm's hitting the region.

About 22 people are known to have died in the wake of Cyclone Phailin, the strongest storm in the region in 14 years, which made landfall over India on Saturday night.

Nearly a million people have been displaced from their homes, and tens of thousands more marooned by flood waters in the state of Orissa.

Charities are beginning to hand out emergency supplies. Christian Aid said that, although the mass evacuation had been successful, there was still "mass humanitarian need".

More than 230,000 houses were destroyed up to 25 km inland, and more than 300,000 hectares of crops ready for harvest, including rice, maize, and vegetables, have been washed away.

Christian Aid's emergency programme officer, Yeeshu Shukla, who is out in the eastern state of Odisha, said: "There are immediate needs in Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, especially for food and shelter. Food is being distributed, but there's an issue of access to many communities that are now cut off. Clean drinking water is also scarce, and 30,000 coconut trees, that thousands of people rely on for livelihoods, have been uprooted."

Electricity and phone lines are down in the region. World Vision's India team are handing out food, including sacks of rice.

"The government has plans for rehabilitation. It is now time for the civil society and organisations like World Vision to support them in this. We will try to focus on livelihood and ensuring that children can go to school as soon as possible," the national director of World Vision India, Dr Jayakumar Christian, said.

World Vision had trained com-munities in advance of the cyclone on disaster preparedness, which included ensuring that families with livestock knew how to protect their animals from the storm. "I feel a sense of satisfaction for having done my bit towards bringing awareness about the cyclone," a community taskforce member, Uma Pradham, said.

Relief teams from Gospel for Asia (GFA) have distributed clean water, medical supplies, clothing, and food, while assessing the long-range needs of people who will have to reconstruct their lives.

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