Written Answers. - Overseas Development Aid.

Willie Penrose

Question:

72 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the aid provided or to be provided to assist India to overcome the effects of the recent disastrous cyclone in the state of Orissa; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25515/99]

The combination of the two cyclones which hit the Indian State of Orissa in less than two weeks resulted in severe damage. In particular, the super cyclone of 29 October was ravaging in its duration and intensity. Winds reaching up to 260 kph and 20 foot tidal waves flattened buildings, trees and utility poles, causing massive destruction and washing away the mud homes of hundreds of thousands. Current estimates put the death toll at over 9,800 with over 3,000 people injured. The devastation caused by the cyclones has affected the lives of millions. Not only have thousands been left homeless but their livelihoods have also been affected. Over 1.7 million hectares of crops were destroyed and some 400,000 livestock perished.

The initial relief effort was hampered by the communications breakdown, making even preliminary information concerning damage and casualties difficult to obtain. The situation has improved dramatically in the last few weeks. The waters have receded and all major routes are now accessible, allowing for assessments and recovery operations to proceed. The Government of India and the state of Orissa, UN agencies and NGOs are now co-ordinating efforts to assist the cyclone affected populations. The Indian Government is allocating thousands of tonnes of rice to both affected families and those NGOs operating free kitchens. It is also supplying non-food items such as plastic sheeting, blankets, and clothes. The health situation is, at present, considered to be under control, but is being monitored constantly. Additional medical staff have been deployed to the area. The UN have reported that there are, at present, adequate stocks of medicines in Orissa.
In the days following the cyclone, Ireland provided IR£200,000 in emergency humanitarian assistance. This money was channelled through the UN and through Irish NGOs operational on the ground. The money is being used to supply and deliver relief packs containing food, cooking utensils and temporary shelter items as well as providing cooked meals to the most vulnerable.
The European Union, on behalf of the member states has also responded generously. The European Commission, via the European Community Humanitarian Office – ECHO – has provided grants totalling two million euros for emergency shelter, ready-to-eat food, essential medicines and water purification equipment.
The people of Orissa now face the formidable task of reconstruction. Assessments continue, but recent information indicates that at least 1 million houses have been destroyed, and this number could increase to 1.7 million. Communications and electricity systems in most areas are completely destroyed, and will take many months to repair. The federal Government of India has promised all possible assistance to Orissa to help rebuild it and State officials are already working on plans for the repair of roads and the building of houses. The UN has been operational in the area for some time now and is now increasing their operations in response to this latest crisis. Additional resources are being ploughed into existing programmes in order to meet rehabilitation and reconstruction needs.