A woman after collecting a sack of rice from a relief-distribution camp at Agasti Nuagaon village near Chhatrapur. Picture by Ashwinee Pati
Nolia Nuagaon (Chhatrapur), Oct. 17: As Ganjam picks up the pieces, thousands of people lodged in relief camps are still trying to come to terms with what cyclone Phailin has done to their lives. They are anxiously awaiting government help in terms of food, money and tarpaulin sheets.
“We have nothing to eat now as a portion of our asbestos house was destroyed in the cyclone. When we returned from temporary shelter house at Chhatrapur a day after the cyclone, we saw our boat was destroyed. We managed for two days with little mercies from the government in the form of rice and flattened rice (chuda). The government has started distributing 50kg rice and Rs 500 to affected families. We hope we will be able to survive with that for some more days,” said K.M. Anniya, a 50-year-old woman, carrying a rice packet after standing in a serpentine queue for hours.
Anniya of Nolia Nuagaon, a fishermen’s village around 5km from Chhatrapur, walked with the sack of rice on her head and a Rs 500 note tucked at the waist. Her husband was busy repairing the boat that was their bread and butter before the cyclone struck on the night of October 12 with speeds of over 200kmph.
The couple was waiting for the government to distribute tarpaulin sheets to cover a large portion of their house, from where the roof had blown off.
With the government machinery initiating relief distribution from yesterday at different centres across the district, the cyclone victims made a beeline outside these centres.
“There are eight persons in my family and we are short on food. This rice will help us survive for at least a month. Though we survived this cyclone, it has shattered our source of livelihood,” said A. Kaleya, a resident of Agasti Nuagaon, another coastal village in the district.
The district authorities are distributing relief to people in the below poverty line category on a priority basis once they furnish proof of their economic status.
“Then we provide the relief material to those who don’t have a card,” said an officer manning a relief distribution centre in Berhampur.
However, at many places, people, who claimed to belong to poor families, alleged that they were not provided with relief materials because they did not belong to the BPL category. “When some of us protested, they were arrested,” said Anant Palei of Huma.
Some families staying at a school in Berhampur’s Bhimarao Peta, which is being used as a temporary shelter, complained that they were given less rice.
“We have not got the 50kg rice and Rs 500 yet. The authorities asked us to vacate the school and have stopped providing relief materials,” said Sheikh Pandu, a cyclone victim taking shelter at Mohamodan Girls’ Upper Primary School in the town with 100 others.
Berhampur tehsildar Rashmi Ranjan Nayak said the relief material had been dispatched from the town hall, which had been converted into a makeshift relief monitoring point. “We hope everyone will get all the materials within a day or two,” he said.
In Gopalpur and Behrampur, too, people were waiting for relief. Municipal corporation officials were busy distributing the materials to people, mostly slum dwellers. Berhampur mayor K. Madhavi said the local administration had evacuated people from various slum pockets and provided them shelter in many schools, colleges and government buildings. Victims whose houses had been badly damaged were allowed to stay longer.
“Most of them have left for their homes. They will vacate these shelter homes in two or three days because we have started distributing tarpaulin sheets along with rice and the Rs 500,” said Madhavi.
Officials said that people in Gopalpur had been evacuated and provided shelter in centres located more than 5km away. But they left for their houses within two days of the disaster.