Thousands of Cyclone Phailin victims homeless and destitute

Published 07 November 2013  |  
(AP)
Around 800,000 homes have been destroyed or badly damaged by Cyclone Phailin

Several ministries in eastern India, assisted by Christian Aid Mission, report staggering needs as they seek to help victims of Cyclone Phailin. The situation has become critical for hundreds of thousands who remain homeless and destitute.

Two weeks after the super storm washed away homes and destroyed crops, misery continues for residents of coastal areas in the most severely affected states of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. Conditions worsened over the weekend when another storm dropped three days of heavy rain on districts still reeling from the devastation of Phailin.

One ministry leader in Andhra Pradesh described the plight of the people as "pitiable" and appealed for an immediate response to the disaster, saying: "I have received call after call from pastors, missionaries, and evangelists that the rains have been unprecedented [compared to anything we have experienced] the past 30 years. Bridges have been cut off and washed away.

"More than 80 villages in Prakasam district have been marooned and lost communications with the outside world. Rice, soybeans, cotton, corn and a few other crops due to be harvested are ruined. Over 95,000 acres of agricultural produce has been devastated and the farmers who are new believers are crying out for help."

"A good number of our missionaries have lost all their belongings in Karimnagar, Nalgonda and Warangal districts. They have no food, clothing, shelter, medical help, cell phones, or transportation. Literally everything has been lost in the floods and severe rains. The government's help is not reaching Christian brothers and sisters because other groups are given priority, having the contacts and the favor of the political leaders who are from a majority religious community. It is now our responsibility to meet the critical needs of our people who are in very desperate need of help."

The Category 4 cyclone affected an estimated 20 million people in India. Loss of life was minimal, however, as the government ordered the evacuation of nearly one million residents in anticipation of the storm.

As floodwaters receded, families left inland shelters and returned to find their homes and entire villages wrecked with little to salvage. Recovery efforts and restoration of electricity have been slowed by miles of washed out roads.

Recent torrential rain added insult to injury when structures partially damaged by the cyclone became inundated a second time. Impoverished Christian families living in the Nalgonda district lost their thatch huts and have nowhere to go.

In Odisha, some 12 million people were impacted and 17 out of 30 districts sustained serious damage in the aftermath of Phailin. One of our ministry partners has targeted 30 of the hardest hit villages near Gopalpur for emergency relief. Much-needed items include food, medicine, clothing, blankets, plastic sheeting to make temporary shelters, kerosene oil, and matches.

Food packages are being assembled that include five kilograms of rice, one kilogram of lentils, one kilogram of cooking oil, curry powder, and salt packets.

Because of poor sanitation and polluted drinking water, the Odisha ministry leader expressed concern over potential outbreaks of disease. Water purification tablets are also among their most pressing needs.

"Urgently we need resources and emergency materials for the vast number of victims awaiting aid," he said. "The disaster response work by the government and other organisations needs more outside partners to work together to address the severity of this ongoing calamity. We need to unite to restore the living conditions of the people, before conditions become further aggravated."

Local believers who lost everything in the cyclone and latest flood event need our prayers and financial assistance to rebuild their lives. The cost to provide food, water, and other essentials for one family for a week ranges in price from $50 to $100. Christian Aid has already se nt $10,000 to assist ministries in India in their disaster relief efforts, but much more is needed during this critical recovery phase.

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