Flooding and Devastation in India: Fears for Safety of Hundreds of Thousands of Children as Cyclone Fani Wreaks Havoc

Save the Children teams on high alert as the cyclone travels toward West Bengal state and Bangladesh

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (May 3, 2019)—At least 480,000 children in India have been impacted by torrential rains, flooding, and winds of up to 127 mph brought by Cyclone Fani, which has destroyed homes, schools and vital infrastructure across the country’s eastern coast. 

As many as 320,000 children have already left their homes and are taking shelter in emergency evacuation centers across the states of Odisha and West Bengal in Eastern India.

Save the Children staff have received reports of low-lying areas along the coast being submerged by a five-foot-high storm surge, leading to the collapse of many houses made of mud and the uprooting of trees. Some of the most marginalized children and families in the region often live on or near riverbanks in flimsy homes, making them especially vulnerable to the rising water and devastation caused by the cyclone.

Save the Children’s teams are carrying out assessments across Odisha and Andhra Pradesh states to determine the extent of the damage, with shelter, household, and school materials ready for distribution.  

Save the Children teams are on standby in the Indian state of West Bengal and in Bangladesh, where Cyclone Fani is expected to arrive late Friday night. The cyclone is expected to remain in West Bengal without losing strength for at least 12 hours.  Staff are preparing to respond in 10 of the Bangladeshi districts in the storm's path by providing food, water, shelter, safety, and hygiene facilities to people made homeless or in need of assistance.

“We’re particularly worried about the heath and homes of families in rural areas and those living by the coast. The scale of the devastation in areas that are hard to reach will be more fully known by tomorrow as the storm dies down and roads become accessible,” said Vikas Gora, Save the Children’s general manager for Southern India.

“Many people in these communities rely on good weather for raw materials—such as crops and wood—to make a living and feed their families. Their livelihoods will almost certainly be impacted badly by the storm.”

In Odisha, Save the Children works in 200 schools and 300 governmental pre-primary school, helping to educate children in almost 300 villages and preparing them for natural disasters. In West Bengal, Save the Children works in 200 villages with 1,500 youth emergency response force members. In the east coast of India, Save the Children has responded to cyclone and flood situation for over 40 years.

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