Combating the after-effects of Cyclone Yaas

[Posted on the 1st of June, 2021.]

On the 26th of May 2021, Cyclone Yaas battered the east-coast of India, making landfall in ōṛiśā, and affected large parts of coastal West Bengal, primarily in the districts of পূর্ব মেদিনীপুর/pūrbo medinīpur (East Medinipur), উত্তর ২৪ পরগনা/uttor 24 pôrgonā (North 24 Parganas) & দক্ষিণ ২৪ পরগনা/dokṣiṇ 24 pôrgonā (South 24 Parganas). Some of our members hail from গোসাবা (gōsābā) in দক্ষিণ ২৪ পরগনা/dokṣiṇ 24 pôrgonā (South 24 Parganas), and we got distressing calls from their acquaintances. The high tides and continuing rain had resulted in houses being cut off from the main road, people living in make-shift tents on the road, and many not having the access to kitchen where they could cook food. The waters had not subsided till the evening of 29th of May.

We immediately arranged a car to go there the next day. We reached and surveyed the place and set up a temporary kitchen by daylight on the 30th May.

We figured that the livelihood of many people were completely destroyed. The air was stinking of the dead freshwater fishes because of salt water contamination.

People have lost their houses and have made a temporary shelter with plastic near the high roads. Some were using their vans or engine vans to make a temporary shelter. Many did not have a proper meal since the cyclone and were surviving on dry food like মুরি/muri and চিঁড়ে (cⁿirē). Some NGOs based in কলকাতা/kolkātā have reached the island, but we observed that they were giving relief only to the people near the rivers, while the people living deep inside the islands were left helpless without any aid from anyone.

Our members being originally from here, we understand the situation better. We just had to reach the starving people who are deprived of any kind of relief.

On the 31st, we had finished cooking the meals early morning and in the day time, were successful in providing about 400 people with cooked meals. The meals consist of rice, ডাল/đāl, potatoes, and vegetables.

Today, 1st of June, we served 500 people. The number could increase because in pockets where people were queuing up, we could successfully convince to stay at their makeshift locations instead, and we made sure we reached everyone, avoiding hassle by all. We anticipate the number to go up to 600 tomorrow, and we will include soyabeans in the menu.

We plan to continue doing this until the situation improves significantly, or the government support reaches us. Here are some more pictures. 🙂

[11th June:] Over the last week, we have continued to provide meals to 500–600 people in the area. Additionally, we are treating the ponds, which were polluted by salty water during cyclone Yaas, with lime/calcium hydroxide for making them reusable. We are also sprinking bleaching powder outside houses, roads, and bylanes to stop the rotting and smell.

Since we have been doing this every single day, the ponds we targeted have now recovered, and are being used by people for bathing, washing clothes, and for collecting water for cooking meals. Life is, slowly, getting back to normal.

We also organised a free medical camp in গোসাবা (gōsābā)’s পাখিরালয় (pākʰirālôẏ), দুলকি (dulki), and জ্যোতিরামপুর ঘাট (jẏōtirāmpur gʰāŧ) area for the people who are affected by several waterborne diseases in the aftermath of the cyclone.

In the meantime, the COVID canteen at পিয়ালি/piẏāli (Piyali) continues. There is a significant cost to the activities, and we are dependent on your support. Please help us sustain the efforts.

[20th June:] Over the last two weeks, the conditions of the lives of people have slowly improved. So, over the last week, we had been directly providing ration to a larger number of families while continuing the community kitchen at a smaller scale, for only those who had not been able to return to their homes still. Now, everyone has, so the regular members from পিয়ালি/piẏāli have returned there. Ration assistance by the গোসাবা/gōsābā members will continue.