India: A Peaceful Daybreak after a Night of Chaos in the Eye of the Cyclonic Storm


Devendra Tak

Puri, Odisha, India

October 14, 2013


I heaved a huge sigh of relief this morning (13 October) as
the number of fatalities in the aftermath of Cyclone Phailin remained at a low
number of 14. The low death toll from this disaster proves that preparedness
saves lives, even in the strongest storms. Over 800,000 people were evacuated
prior to the storm’s landfall, some even moved forcibly from their homes into
cyclone shelters that ensured their safety from the strong winds, heavy rain
and storm surge.


Santoshi reaches to the camera at her home destroyed by cyclone Phailin in Odhisa, India. 
Photo Credit: Prasanth Vishwanathan/Save the Children

However, packing winds of over 200km/h, the destruction left
behind by the category five storm will still take months to clear and repair.
Save the Children staff arrived at the disaster area a day before the cyclone
was scheduled to make landfall, on high alert to respond to any humanitarian
needs. Up in one of the tallest buildings in Puri, I had a bird’s eye view of
the destruction – trees uprooted, telephone posts and electrical lines down and
mud houses collapsed the coastline. Late at night, we witnessed the storm
relentlessly roll past across the street, which was visible through our windows
thanks to the hotel lights, which ran on a generator even as the township of
Puri (on the Odisha coastline) had had its power supply completely shut out. In
the distance, I could even see a lighthouse, whose lights went on and off
during the passing over of the cyclone. The screeching and howling sounds of
the wind took over all our senses, with occasional flashes of swathes of water
swirling in the water as they were swept on from the sea by the storm.

As soon as the storm passed us, Save the Children’s team
launched into action. Our team began assessing the needs and damage in the
surrounding areas, along with local partners and government counterparts. A
team of three colleagues headed for Gopalpur, which was where the cyclone had
made its landfall and the maximum damage was expected to be. With the wind and
rains slowing, families too began emerging from the cyclone shelters and
children resumed playing on the streets knowing that almost everyone survived
the storm. There was a huge sense of relief in the expressions of everyone, and
not just me.


Tattamma looks on with her 45 days old son Jagannath outside her home which was completly destroyed by cyclone Phailin. 
Photo Credit: Prasanth Vishwanathan/Save the Children

From initial assessments and reports, communications lines
and power remain down in the worst-affected areas, with roads blocked by fallen
trees and damage to more than 200,000 homes. Large swathes of farm land have
also been affected, destroying much of the crops. This could have a huge impact
of communities, who depend largely on agriculture for survival.

In the coming days, along with other NGO partners we will
identify the needs that have arisen from the worst-affected children to regain
normalcy in their lives. We know that in a situation like this, we need to
ensure that children feel safe with a roof over their heads, a blanket to keep
them warm, hot food and clothes. Having gone through a big storm like this,
they could be afraid of heavy rain or strong winds that are predicted to
continue over the next few days. Working closely with the local government and
other aid agencies, Save the Children will ensure that children caught up in
the disaster are protected, with food, water, shelter and a safe space to play.

Kudos once again to the government, the media, the NGOs and
the people at large, who have acted as one to ensure that countless human lives
have been saved from the wrath of this cyclone.



 Donate to help the children affected by Cyclone Phailin

Cyclone Mahasen Moves Toward Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar Districts of Bangladesh

Mahasen authorKhaza Uddin – Communications Manager, Save the Children


May 16, 2013

Mahasen hit the coast of Bangladesh near the southern district of Patulkhai early
Thursday and is now situated 130 miles from the ports of Chittagong and Cow’s
Bazar. Warning signals have risen to seven out of a possible 10 and one person
has already been reported dead.

Mahasen photo
Damage from Tropical Storm Mahasen in Kalapara Sadar Upazila , Patuakhali district Thursday morning. Trees were uprooted and homes significantly damaged. Photo by Save the Children.
and transportation have been disrupted, cutting off several communities in the
south of the country. At least 25 villages in Patuakhali District were flooded on
Wednesday due to a storm surge that washed away the flood control dams built to
protect the people behind them. This storm surge was reported to be at least
five feet height damaging 500 houses in its wake. In another southern district,
Jhalokathi, heavy rainfall is ongoing as water levels of most of the rivers continue
to rise. Cyclone shelters are packed with vast numbers of people and it is
feared current dry food supplies are insufficient to meet demand.  

Government of Bangladesh has ordered 1 million people in a total of 15 coastal districts
to take shelter in safe places including cyclone shelters. However, the number
of shelters available is not believed to be adequate enough to accommodate all
the evacuees.

is predicted that at least 8 million people will be affected during the course of
cyclone Mahasen, 4.1 million in Bangladesh. Save the Children have already
initiated our response targeting the districts of Barisal, Patuakhai, Barguna,
Khulna & Bagherhat, Satkhira, Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar in partnership
with 8 coastal based implementing partners. We have mobilized 1,500 ready to
use food packs and 500 lifesaving non-food items, 5,000 Disaster Risk Reduction
trained youth volunteers and 700 Village Disaster Management Committees who are
all ready to respond. Damage assessment teams are also ready and will start
work alongside national and international NGOs. Save the Children also has on
standby four speedboats ready to respond to the needs of the communities – and
particularly children  -in each sub-district
affected by the storm surges and flooding.


How You Can Help

Children affected by Cyclone Mahasen need caring people to
support our relief efforts. Please give generously to the Cyclone Mahasen
Children in Emergency Fund. Donate now. 


Vietnam: Making Sense of Cyclone Ketsana

Nick Finney, Save the Children Emergency Response Team Leader

Oct. 6, 2009.  Quang Tri, Vietnam

Nick finney_233 I’m with two colleagues on the way to Quang Tri, where the most serious reports are coming from in Vietnam.  Its 22.00 and our conversation has digressed – we’re all very tired and can’t take in much more tonight. Talk in the car is descending we’re speculating about what 'Ketsana' means. We’ve two theories – theory one, Ketsana means full moon in Filipino, theory two, Ketsana is a perfumed tree from Lao. Or maybe a perfumed cheese.

It’s good not to know and not to be able to find out and in any case I heard that Google is killing general knowledge. There’s a full moon festival this weekend – a big day for children in Vietnam. They get gifts, run around banging big drums and dress up as dragons – it looks like great fun.  Full moon festival seems to be on in the big cities like Dan and Hue, but there’s no sign of it in any of the places we visited today. Still too much to sort out and too much suffering.

Today started OK, then got quite frustrating, then confusing, then a meltdown. And then we got it together. 200 more packages distributed to families containing essential supplies – reaching approximately 1,000 people. 

Tomorrow will be crucial – I hope we got it right. We’re making a long journey and our aim will be to finalise a plan to get us into the thick of an emergency phase. By the end of the week, we hope to get aid to 5,000 more families – that’s about 15,000 children. 5,000 of them will be under five and highly vulnerable to diseases like diarrheoea and malaria.

Lots of reports today of acute respiratory infection, eye infection and skin disease following the flood. Children in affected communities in Vietnam, as ever in all emergencies, are suffering the most.

Learn more about Save the Children’s response in Vietnam.