Two months into the Covid-19 lockdown, while everyone in the nation was struggling to cope with the consequences, Odisha and West Bengal were hit by the most powerful and devastating storm in 283 years, slaughtering over 90 people and making 500,000 destitute. As if it were not enough for a massive health crisis in the form of a pandemic to evaluate the will of its people, the catastrophic event of Cyclone Amphan’s scale left everyone devastated and in hopelessness.
Relief work and recovery are made even more complicated in what is referred to as a cascading catastrophe. On 20 May, Cyclone Amphan made landfall and created unparalleled havoc. That evening, the city of Kolkata encountered four non-stop hours of strong winds (90-130 kph). Elderly residents said that in their living memories, they had never seen anything like this.
Cyclone Amphan was the most devastating cyclone to have ever formed in the Bay of Bengal, landing in the Sundarbans on May 20, then Kolkata and its outlying neighborhoods, tearing in before moving on to Bangladesh with wind speeds of 185 km ph. Excessive floods, power failures, roofs lifted and tossed by shrieking winds, uprooted thousands of trees and waterlogged houses, streets, and fields. The horrific damage was discovered the next morning: Kolkata, India’s oldest town in the east, was destroyed beyond recognition.
Communications were interrupted in the state and the hardest-hit areas were not even available. Though five lakh vulnerable individuals were evacuated in rural areas in the storm line, the death toll still hit double digits during the duration of social distancing, a difficult operation in itself.
Nearly all the standing crops were damaged. After two months of Covid-19 related lockdowns, this comes as a double whammy when farmers have been unable to get decent prices for their crops due to transportation disruptions. The worst affected area was the Sundarbans, where hundreds of villages were flooded and many buildings were flattened.
The state’s economy is going to take a big blow. The rural population is especially vulnerable. Because of Covid-19, agricultural revenue and remittance income had already collapsed, and now widespread destruction of standing crops makes farmers even more vulnerable. The rural poor will face hunger and malnutrition unless immediate, climate-resilient action is taken.
There’s such a degree of devastation that we need synergy. We need a relationship between private and government programs and civil society. To step in and play an active role, we need the Diaspora. And that is where we fell short. World media attention, so far at least, has been minimal.
The disaster has hardly been mentioned by major platforms. As a result, individuals are not conscious of the size of destruction. Apne Aap is one of the organizations that have come forward to support people in need and has been working diligently since then. Internationally, Apne Aap women have always believed in our grassroots and always believed in bottom-up growth. If we can think about the most disadvantaged people now, only then can the True change that we want to see in the world take place.
The lockdown of Covid19 and Cyclone Amphan drove families to severe hardship. They had reached rock bottom with no cash and no food. As Apne Aap recognized Mumtaz’s video begging for assistance, they tried to give them the hope that they would proceed. To continue to fight for integrity. About survival. A lesson for all of us is the strength that families have shown through these times. 1 million meals today is the beginning of this transition. A journey that is not only about a number but to help in the recovery of Mumtaz and those like her, for whom it can get no worse.
Apne Aap has also attempted to rehabilitate them with 1MillionMeal and help them build homes so that they can at least have a house and a roof over their heads. They have undertaken the task of transforming the lives of those affected by cyclone Amphan and covid19 lockdown with this thought in mind.
They vowed to fund and reconstruct at least a hundred homes in Bengal for disadvantaged women and children in the Calcutta and Bengal Redlight Areas. They gave tarpaulin packs to encourage families to build a temporary roof over their heads to shelter them before we get more assistance.
In the face of the double blow to Bengal, the COVID-19 pandemic, and Cyclone Amphan’s devastation, let’s stand together and do everything in our power to help those affected get back on their feet. Please come forward and donate as much or as little as you can online. The smiles on several faces can be brought back by a little support from you. You can donate using the following link.
By Ahmedabad University Students