Oxfam India Prepares Ahead of Cyclone Amphan Landfall

Oxfam India Prepares Ahead of Cyclone Amphan Landfall

Subrat Kumar Padhihary is a 38-year-old farmer and village community leader. He stays in village Bari, Jajpur district of Odisha, with his mother, wife and three daughters. He says his house is over 70 years old and has weathered several cyclones that the region has seen. The last Cyclone Fani caused severe damage to his house. He is a small time farmer, cultivating sugarcane during this season, and the cyclone warning in his village has left him worried about his crop. He knows it will be destroyed.

Subrat is more worried about leaving the safety of his house and going to the cyclone shelter. He knows the drill during disasters but his concern stems from the fact that the government school— which is where disaster evacuees will be taken — has been converted into a COVID-19 quarantine centre. Others are concerned too as a few COVID-19 cases have been identified in the neighbouring village and if and when Cyclone Amphan makes a landfall they might end up sharing the cyclone shelter with infected patients.

Super Cyclonic Storm

Cyclone Amphan (pronounced as UM-PUN) turned in to a 'super cyclonic storm' on Monday morning, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) tweeted on Monday afternoon, hours after it intensified in to an extremely severe cyclonic storm.

The coastal states of West Bengal and Odisha have been alerted; the storm is expected to make landfall in Bengal on Wednesday. Very heavy rainfall is also likely in Sikkim, Assam and Meghalaya. The cyclone comes at a time when India has entered the third extension of the nationwide lockdown in its fight against COVID-19; more than 96,000 people have tested positive and over 3,000 have died across the country

According to the weather office, those living in coastal areas will have to brace themselves for heavy rain and high-velocity winds that may cause damage to houses, crops, plantations, orchards, power infrastructure and even the special railway traffic that is presently functioning.

The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has deployed 17 teams in Odisha and West Bengal. Of these, seven teams are spread over six districts of West Bengal and 10 teams are on duty in Odisha. The State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) and local administration teams have been disseminating early warning messages to fisher folk and local residents.

West Bengal Home Secretary said that the state is prepared to deal with the situation. Disaster management teams have been dispatched to cyclone shelters in the coastal areas and other places for rescue and relief operations in keeping with physical distancing norms due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A year after it was hit by Cyclone Fani — one of the worst storms in decades — Odisha is prepared to evacuate over 1 million people, state officials inform. Twelve coastal districts — Ganjam, Gajapti, Puri, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Bhadrak, Balasore, Mayurbhanj, Jajpur, Cuttack, Khurda and Nayagarh, are under a close watch.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a meeting with the Ministry of Home Affairs and the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) on Monday evening to review the arising cyclone situation and preparedness in various parts of the country.

Oxfam India is Prepared

Cyclone Amphan had begun to develop in the Bay of Bengal in early May. Since then Oxfam India’s humanitarian team has been closely monitoring the situation, is regularly coordinating with team members and local partners stationed in areas where landfall is anticipated, and is continuously tracking media sources.

Oxfam India’s team is in constant touch with the local partners in West Bengal and Odisha to respond, following a rapid needs assessment. Coordination with District and State Inter Agency Groups is also underway. Simultaneously, procurement and prepositioning of relief material has started.

Saving lives is central to any disaster response, and Oxfam India is aware that in a situation such as this, women and girls, the elderly, the differently-abled and other marginalised sections are the worst hit. As people struggle to return to normalcy, inclusive relief and rehabilitation efforts with a clear gender focus shall be at the heart of all of Oxfam India’s humanitarian interventions.

In the post-cyclone phase, people will need essential supplies such as shelter material (tarpaulins, ground sheets, blankets), clean water, sanitation, hygiene kits (WASH kits), solar lanterns, dignity kits for women and girls and eventually livelihood support.

Amphan and COVID-19

It is a double whammy for the migrant labourers who are walking home along the coastal districts in Odisha and West Bengal. At the time of writing this piece we received some more information. Amphan was super cyclone moving at 296 km/h; according to the US Navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Centre Amphan had shown signs of weakening during the early hours of Tuesday. The worrisome bit is that even a weakened cyclone will be a destructive one. The uncertainty over landfall continues — while the IMD is suggesting the West Bengal Bangladesh border, the Joint Typhoon Warning Centre has projected a landfall in South West Bengal, closer to border with Odisha.

So it is just about bracing up for the worst. News that it is cloudy and windy in Berhampur, where Oxfam India’s partner Youth for Social Development (YSD) are providing food and safety kits to migrant workers walking and cycling back home. The work under the Pathik Project continues. At a time when the world and country are already suffering a pandemic, a cyclone such as Amphan is bound to make matters worse. It is important that the global community joins hands to provide support to the worst affected communities.

(with inputs from Bimal Prasad Pandia and Savvy Soumya Misra)

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