Odisha braces itself for floods

State Government MP Baijayant Panda spends time in a packed shelter in the aftermath of Cyclone Phailin
 
By Denis McClean

GENEVA, October 14 - The State Government of Odisha in India is now bracing itself for the possibility of additional flooding as the remains of Cyclone Phailin move inland filling rivers and reservoirs to the brim.

A State Government MP, Baijayant Panda, told UNISDR today that the flood situation is unpredictable and that early estimates are that 500,000 hectares of farmland have been inundated by the tidal surge and the heavy rains.

“It is still too early to say the full extent of the damage to crop lands but it is significant. We may need help from central government with food stocks,” he said.

Mr. Panda pointed out that the damage to the rice crop would likely impact on the State scheme to provide subsidized rice to the poor which has helped to reduce starvation and malnutrition across the populous state of 42 million people.

He also remarked that there was clearly a need for more cyclone shelters along the 500 km Odisha coast.

Mr. Panda said: “The problem is that we have 500 kilometers of coastline and you can’t move everyone away. About two-thirds of the 42 million people live in the coastal area. There were about 15,000 villages with ten million people exposed to this cyclone. The vulnerability is that most of the people live in thatched huts. The government has a programme to build concrete houses but cannot meet the demand due to lack of resources. So we need more cyclone shelters.”

The MP spent the whole of today visiting the affected areas and reported: “What I see is that people confirmed that they were evacuated in time and have had cooked food in the emergency shelters for the last four days. I have seen many villages water-logged and we have threats of floods but it’s hard to tell how severe they will become.

“Our State is as large as England so it will take time before we have a full account of the extent of the impact but the performance of the State government under the leadership of Chief Minister, Naveen Patnaik, has been outstanding and the Odisha State Disaster Management Authority has also done excellent work.”

The Head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, Margareta Wahlström, today extended her condolences to the Indian government and people for their losses due to Cyclone Phailin.

Ms. Wahlström said: “The Indian government, the Indian Meteorological Department, the State governments of Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal, their local governments and disaster management authorities are to be congratulated for the highly professional way in which they tracked the cyclone and took the necessary measures to evacuate a million people out of harm’s way.

“It is clear that the economic losses will be enormous from the wind damage and extensive flooding of Odisha’s farms in particular but the recovery effort is well underway and the lessons learned from this disaster can only strengthen India’s resilience.

“Just five months ago the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, launched India’s National Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction and re-iterated his government’s commitment to implementing the global Hyogo Framework for Action, introduced after the Indian Ocean tsunami nine years ago. Over the last few days we have seen clear proof of India’s ability to reduce its exposure and prepare for the worst.”

She added that the heavily populated coastlines of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh were typical of the worldwide growth in exposure to extreme weather events which has led to a significant increase in economic losses from disasters over the last twenty years.
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