Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
People cross a road submerged in water at the cyclone-hit Puintola village in Ganjam district in the eastern Indian state of Odisha. A million residents from across Odisha and neighbouring states fled to shelters. Adnan Abidi/Reuters
People cross a road submerged in water at the cyclone-hit Puintola village in Ganjam district in the eastern Indian state of Odisha. A million residents from across Odisha and neighbouring states fled to shelters.  Adnan Abidi/Reuters

India’s poor face grim rebuilding task after cyclone

Some 500,000 homes partially or completely destroyed in the hardest-hit district of Ganjam after Cyclone Phailin hits India's Odisha.

GOPALPUR, India // Sitting on a wall of his collapsed one-room house in eastern India, B Chinnaya reflects on the devastation that Cyclone Phailin wrought on his once vibrant fishing village.

“I built this house with my own hands, with my own hard-earned money,” Mr Chinnaya said as he tried to replace the tin roof.

“When I came back to the village, I couldn’t help but break down into tears. All that hard work got washed away.”

Mr Chinnaya was among the one million residents from across Odisha and neighbouring states who fled to shelters on Saturday to escape the ferocious storm which uprooted trees, mangled power powers and flattened homes.

While the biggest evacuation in Indian history was hailed for minimising loss of life, already poor fishermen and farmers have returned to their villages this week to discover the few possessions they had have been destroyed.

With both of his small, wooden fishing boats snapped in half by the cyclone’s storm surge and powerful winds, and no savings to repair them, Mr Chinnaya was blunt about his future.

“No boat means no fish. No fish, no money,” Mr Chinnaya said in Gopalpur village, in the heart of the cyclone zone.

“God had something against me, I think, else he wouldn’t have done this.”

Some 500,000 homes were partially or completely destroyed in the hardest-hit district of Ganjam which includes Gopalpur village, officials said. Livelihoods including small businesses have also been wrecked, while inland, crops were flooded.

Tarpaulins and plastic sheets were being distributed to those in need, along with basic food and water as part of a major relief operation under way across the region, officials said.

At a school in Gopalpur, dozens of children sat in lines, eating rice and lentils served on giant banana-leaf plates.

“I like eating here. The food is very good,” said Santoshi Sahas, 11.

“I don’t have an option really because we don’t have a kitchen at home anymore, no food,” she said.

The local municipality started stockpiling food after weather officials warned the cyclone, India’s biggest in 14 years, was barrelling towards them from across the Bay of Bengal. An official said there was enough food to feed 2,000 people for another 10 days.

“We started stocking up a good four days in advance and it really paid off,” said Ashok Kumar Panda, the head of the municipality.

“Everyone is getting food, the kids are fed without fail while their parents repair their homes and then the parents eat. We will continue feeding them until everything becomes normal,” Mr Panda said.

But he admitted power would not be restored to the area for another three weeks, perhaps longer. And residents fear little or no government compensation to help them start over.

Santosh Behra, 45, said he was unsure where he would find the 100,000 rupees (Dh5,900) he estimates he needs to repair his small store and brick home, after the cyclone ripped off the thatched roof.

“When I came back [from a shelter], most of the goods in my store were destroyed,” Mr Behra said.

“The question is how will I get everything fixed? I don’t have money and the government is nowhere in sight when we need some help.”

* Agence France-Presse

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 A view of a defaced portrait of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during an anti-North Korean rally on the 102nd birthday of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung in central Seoul. Kim Hong-Ji / Reuters

Best photography from around the world, April 15

The National View's photo editors pick the best images of the day from around the world.

 The Doha-based Youssef Al Qaradawi speaks to the crowd as he leads Friday prayers in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt in February, 2011. The outspoken pro-Muslim Brotherhood imam has been critical of the UAE’s policies toward Islamist groups, adding to friction between Qatar and other GCC states. Khalil Hamra / AP Photo

Brotherhood imam skips Doha sermon, but more needed for GCC to reconcile

That Youssef Al Qaradawi did not speak raises hopes that the spat involving Qatar and the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain might be slowly moving towards a resolution.

 Twitter photo of  Abdel Fattah El Sisi on the campaign trail on March 30. Photo courtesy-Twitter/@SisiCampaign

El Sisi rides a bicycle, kicks off social media storm

The photos and video created a huge buzz across social media networks, possibly a marker of a new era for Egypt.

 An Afghan election commission worker carries a ballot box at a vote counting centre in Jalalabad on April 6. A roadside bomb hit a truck carrying full ballot boxes in northern Afghanistan, killing three people a day after the country voted for a successor to President Hamid Karzai. Eight boxes of votes were destroyed in the blast, which came as the three leading candidates voiced concerns about possible fraud. Noorullah Shirzada / AFP Photo

Two pressing questions for Afghanistan’s future president

Once in office, the next Afghan president must move fast to address important questions that will decide the immediate future of the country.

 Friday is UN Mine Awareness Day and Omer Hassan, who does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan, is doing all he can to teach people about the dangers posed by landmines. Louise Redvers for The National

A landmine nearly ended Omer’s life but he now works to end the threat of mines in Iraq

Omer Hassan does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan and only has to show people his mangled leg to underscore the danger of mines. With the world marking UN Mine Awareness Day on Friday, his work is as important as ever as Iraq is one of the most mine-affected countries in the world.

 Supporters of Turkey's ruling AKP cheer as they follow the election's results in front of the party's headquarters in Ankara on March 30. Adem Altan/ AFP Photo

Erdogan critic fears retaliation if he returns to Turkey

Emre Uslu is a staunch critic of Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Now, with a mass crackdown on opposition expected, he is unsure when he can return home.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National