In our last post of the India at Large series, we commented briefly on local media reports of the action taken by state governments and other bodies to protect hundreds of thousands of people threatened by hurricane Phailin and pointed to the political angle in the light of the elections next year. Interestingly, the television reports which we saw on Sunday did not focus on the extent of the flooding caused by the hurricane. On the other hand, it would appear that international reporting was already highlighting the damage and human suffering for which the floods were, and continue to be, responsible. That said, we obviously had not surveyed a wide cross-section of India’s media. During the week, we have followed developments in the Times of India and thought it might be of interest to share a few excerpts.
On Wednesday, the Times of India (TOI) reported on the flooding and statements by those in authority:
‘ “Flood water has started receding and we hope by Wednesday it will show signs of improvement,” special relief commissioner Pradipta Mohapatra told TOI. ( … )
As thousands of marooned people cried for food, the state with central agencies like National Disaster Response Force, Army and Navy, stepped up relief and rescue operations. Though the government said it had reached out to all villages, people complained relief was still trickling in. “We are not getting any food,” said Shyam Tudu, a flood victim in Mayurbhanj.
Mohapatra said: “ ( … ) Three IAF helicopters will continue airdropping food things in the quickest possible time. We hope to ensure relief reaches everywhere by Wednesday evening“.
Revenue minister S N Patro said although the situation in some worst-hit areas continued to remain grim, things were “under control”.
On Thursday, TOI reported:
‘Authorities in India’s Orissa state are intensifying efforts to provide relief to some 12 million people affected by a cyclone and subsequent floods.
Cyclone Phailin, the strongest storm to hit the state in 14 years, flattened homes, uprooted trees and blocked roads in Orissa and Andhra Pradesh states. Subsequent flooding has left 100,000 people stranded in parts of Orissa. Officials said the cyclone and the floods had together damaged over 300,000 homes in 16,487 villages in Orissa.
Senior official Krishan Kumar told the Press Trust of India news agency that Ganjam was the worst-affected district. More than 240,000 houses had been damaged, power lines had snapped and nets, boats and fishing catamarans had been destroyed, he said. ( … )
Orissa Chief Minister Navin Patnaik said the government was ensuring “that relief materials, food, polythene, medical supplies and kerosene reach the affected people“.
Separately, Indian [Prime Minister] Manmohan Singh has announced compensation of 200,000 rupees ($3,234; £2,028) for the family of each person killed in the cyclone and 50,000 rupees for those seriously injured. ( … )
The death toll in Cyclone Phailin remained low because of a successful evacuation effort described by officials as “the biggest in India’s history for such an event“. ( … )
But the intense storm has made more than half a million people homeless, state government officials said.’
We visited Orissa and the coastline of the Bay of Bengal about a year ago. It is a beautiful region with an incredible history and cultural and religious heritage. It is not on the regular tourist itineraries but deserves to be. Its welcoming and charming citizens certainly deserve support from all quarters now.