Puri: Even 13 days after Cyclone Fani, people in the affected region are still struggling to settle down and start building a normal life again. Those who lost their homes in the cyclone are worried as monsoon is expected to arrive soon and could make their situation worse.
According to the meteorological department, Odisha will experience monsoon from June 15. If there is heavy or continuous rainfall, more people will be effected and chances of epidemic could increase.
Rajashwari (28), a mother of two has been busy rebuilding her house in the aftermath of Cyclone Fani. She is desperate to rebuild the roof for her children, and is not hopeful that help will arrive soon. She has decided to rebuild it on her own.
Like Rajashwari, most people at Penthakota and Nolia Sahi in Puri are staring at an uncertain future. A majority of the villagers belong to the fishing community. They have lost not just homes, but also boats and fishing nets.
Most villagers took refuge in an emergency shelter in a government school. Rajeshwari and her children have been staying in the shelter since the cyclonic storm.
Rajeshwari and her six-member family’s house was barely 100 metres away from the sea. Now, only the four walls of her house remain standing.
“We have lost everything. It’s been 13 days now and we are still waiting to receive support from the government. With no food, water and home, life has become really miserable,” Rajeshwari said.
“For the first three days, we were given cooked food. It has stopped now. They asked us to leave the shelter as it is a school. We don’t have a place to stay. I can’t let my children to live under the open sky,” she added.
Though Rajeshwari is now scared to stay near the sea, she has no option but to try and rebuild her house. “We have been staying here for years now. Earlier, the sea was not so near. Now, it is barely 100 metres away. We are scared to stay here, but we don’t have any other land to build a new house,” she shared.
S. Suba Rao, a fisherman from Puri, lost his house and boats during Fani. He and his family members are collecting wooden and bamboo pieces to rebuild their house. “Fani left a trail of devastation. But now, the biggest challenge is monsoon. Without a home, we are going to have a difficult monsoon. I am worried about my children as their school will reopen. Not having a house will have an impact on their education,” shared Rao.
Renubala Maharana (44), a papier mache artist from the heritage village Raghurajpur, Puri has lost her home after Fani wreaked havoc. Her four room asbestos house fell apart completely. A widow with two children, she has now taken shelter in a relative’s house in the village. “I don’t know where to keep my children and feed them. I am a papier mache artist and Fani has destroyed all my finished product and raw materials,” says Renubala.
Renubala used to make wall hanging papier mache masks and toys from clay, cow dung and paper.
“I don’t think I can rebuild my house before the monsoon arrives. I don’t have anyone help,” she shared.
Dalits take shelter under fallen tree
Around 25 Dalits have been taking shelter under a fallen tree at Kuliapada area near Chandanpur in Puri since the cyclone struck on May 3. Without water, food and a roof, the families are struggling to survive. “We don’t own land, so built small huts near an old Banyan tree, which was uprooted during the storm. We don’t have any place to go, so we are taking shelter under the uprooted tree and waiting for help,” shared an old woman in her early 70s.
The government’s preliminary assessment suggested that more than 5.08 lakh houses were left damaged, partially or fully, by the storm. The cyclone hit the state with a wind speed exceeding 200 kmph. It has affected around 1.4 crore people in over 16,000 villages and 51 urban areas.
Chief minister Naveen Patniak has announced that pucca house will be built for all the families whose houses were completely or partially damaged. But the challenge is to help the victims before the arrival of monsoon.