Cyclone Phailin made landfall on October 12th, striking the East coast of India including the states of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. Wind speeds reached 130 miles per hour and the storm surge reached 10 feet in some areas.
The storm triggered India’s biggest evacuation operation in 23 years with close to one million people evacuated by government authorities with support from the Indian Red Cross. More than 110,000 are taking refuge in Red Cross run cyclone shelters. Phailin had a devastating impact damaging or destroying more than 250,000 homes and nearly 1 million acres of crops.
The emergency response has been constrained by the cancellation of air-flights and trains, damage to highways and roads along the coastline, and disruption to mobile communication.
The Indian Red Cross (IRCS) has deployed teams to assess the affected areas and is mobilizing emergency relief items, clean water, and shelter materials. More than 2,500 volunteers are responding. Three water treatment units have been deployed along with 11,000 tarps. The IRCS is planning to support some 200,000 people with initial assistance including distribution of shelter and relief supplies, health checks and provision of safe water.
The cyclone affected 11 million people but due to intensive preparedness efforts few lives were lost. In 1999 Cyclone Orissa made landfall in a similar area and killed more than 10,000 people. Since that time the Indian Red Cross has increased its disaster preparedness efforts and training in the communities.
“Disaster risk reduction interventions for the last many years in Odisha, especially the construction of 75 cyclone shelters and training of large number of volunteers made it possible for nearly 110,400 people to get protection in these Red Cross Cyclone Shelters during the evacuation,” said Dr. S.P. Agarwal, Secretary General of the Indian Red Cross.