Cyclone Phailin is now a tropical depression that will continue to drop heavy rain for the next 48 hours. Initial reports estimate that more than 8 million people are affected and 200,000 to 350,000 homes are severely damaged or destroyed. Crop losses are high and sanitation is likely to become a concern in coming days.
Prior to the cyclone making landfall, the local government and multiple organizations – including Catholic Relief Services (CRS) – coordinated the country’s biggest evacuation in 23 years with more than 900,000 people moved from low-lying coastal areas in Odisha and Andhra Pradesh to nearly 250 emergency shelters in schools and government offices. This massive evacuation helped keep reported casualties low thus far.
John Shumlansky, CRS’ country representative in India, said that, “While reports of casualties are low, we shouldn’t underestimate the scale of this disaster. There are millions of people who will need support to rebuild their homes and livelihoods. CRS, the local Church, our sister Caritas agencies and other partners will work with the government to determine how we can help the poorest families as they begin that process.”
CRS will visit affected communities over the next two days to determine the most urgent needs and coordinate with other organizations to deliver aid to families. Immediate needs likely include water purification, sheeting for shelter and hygiene kits. Families will also need long-term assistance with transitional shelter and recovering from the loss of crops and household goods. CRS has many relief items already in place to reach communities as quickly as possible.