Gospel for Asia (GFA) Compassion Services disaster relief teams were among the first to reach victims on India's east coast after Phailin made landfall as one of the largest cyclones ever generated in the Bay of Bengal.
Cyclone Phailin made landfall on the evening of October 12 as a Category 4 storm, leaving 17 people dead and more than 500,000 people homeless and currently in relief camps in the Indian state of Odisha alone, according to state officials. Nearly one million people were evacuated from Odisha and neighboring Andhra Pradesh, and an estimated nine million people are victims of the storm in some way.
In response, GFA Compassion Services teams distributed immediate supplies of clean water and food to victims, who have lost homes, livelihoods, crops, and livestock.
"GFA Compassion Services teams traveled 12 hours through roads flooded and blocked by fallen trees to be the first responders in one of the hardest hit areas on the Odisha coast," reported Dr. K. P. Yohannan, Founder and President of GFA and a member of the NRB Board of Directors. "They discovered people filled with despair, devoid of all hope, and reached out to them with lifesaving supplies and the hope that only Jesus can bring."
Reports from Compassion Services teams indicate that more than 500 GFA believers in Odisha alone have lost their mud houses, along with thousands of their neighbors. Most are trying to work on their homes during the day and returning to relief camps at night.
Wrecked fishing boats and nets, and one million acres of lost crops across Odisha and Andhra Pradesh mean loss of livelihood for thousands. The agricultural loss in these states, especially of rice, is anticipated to affect the food supply throughout India.
"Most of our believers are dependent upon agriculture and do not know what they will do now," reported one onsite GFA representative.
Downed power lines, meanwhile, have created additional havoc, affecting not only the flow of electricity but also communication and transportation. Furthermore, medical aid is in short supply.
While the government has reportedly guaranteed initial relief of a few days of food, GFA relief teams are working to meet basic needs by distributing clean water, medical supplies, clothing, and family food packs of rice, salt, oil, potatoes, and matchsticks.
"The recovery process stretches months, perhaps even years, into the future for these people who have endured devastating loss," said Dr. Yohannan. "We must not forsake them in their desperate suffering. We will continue to take to them the love of Jesus as we help them rebuild their lives and find new hope."
To learn more about the effects of Cyclone Phailin, and to donate to the relief efforts, visit www.gfa.org/cyclone/phailin.
Published: October 24, 2013