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October 13, 2013 - Los Angeles - International Medical Corps’ Emergency Response Team is on the ground in India following Cyclone Phailin, a catastrophic storm roughly the size of Hurricane Katrina, that struck the country’s eastern coast on Saturday. The team will be assessing the needs of residents, as well as families and children who were displaced in the hardest-hit areas of Odisha state.
Authorities on Saturday put the death toll at 23, far fewer than had been feared, but said more than 8 million people were affected by the storm. Approximately one million people in Odisha (formerly Orissa) state and adjacent Andhra Pradesh took shelter after authorities issued warnings, as early as five days before the storm, and conducted mass evacuations - often by force – which minimized the loss of life.
In the wake of the storm, the destruction of standing crops has been massive - an estimated 2,000 square miles were washed away. In addition, electricity and communication lines are still down across large parts of Odisha. India’s disaster teams have begun relief operations, with authorities especially concerned about the health and sanitation needs of close to a million people and the impact of the storm on people's homes and livelihoods.
“People were evacuated mostly to public institutions like schools, hospitals. I am hearing they need food, shelter, water, sanitation,” says Dr. Santhosh Kumar, an orthopedic surgeon who worked with International Medical Corps in Libya and is helping lead its response in India. “The government is working really hard but they’re not able to provide all the things that people need. People were warned and evacuated, so I don’t expect a lot of injuries. The need will be more for public health expertise.”
Joining the team with Dr. Santhosh will be Dr. Ashok Sharma, a public health expert who served as a member of its response team in Darfur and Iraq, and has more than 25 years of experience managing response teams and supervising health and nutrition-related response efforts at local, national and international levels.
In addition to emergency medical care, survivors are likely to be in immediate need of non-food items like blankets, tents, stoves, as well as water purification equipment. Over the long-term International Medical Corps teams anticipate sanitation and nutrition services will be needed.
International Medical Corps has been a first-responder to numerous natural disasters in Asia, including the tsunami in Japan two years ago, Cyclone Nargis in 2008, the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan, and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
Since its inception nearly 30 years ago, International Medical Corps' mission has been consistent: relieve the suffering of those impacted by war, natural disaster and disease, by delivering vital health care services that focus on training. This approach of helping people help themselves is critical to returning devastated populations to self-reliance. For more information visit: www.InternationalMedicalCorps.org. Also see us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.