The Heat Is Online

Orissa Survivors Cope with 104-degree Temperatures in April

Cyclone victims in India's Orissa hit by heatwave

Planetark, Reuters News Service, April 26, 2000
BHUBANESHWAR - Six months after a devastating cyclone slammed the eastern Indian state of Orissa, thousands of storm victims face a heatwave sweeping across the state.

About a million people whose homes were destroyed by last year's cyclone are enduring over 40 degree Celsius (104 degree Fahrenheit) temperatures with just flimsy tin shanties covered with polythene sheets for shelter.

"It's getting hotter by the day and it seems we are being burned alive," says Renubala Patro, the sole survivor of the cyclone in a family of five in Kiada village.

Aid agencies have been pouring in relief material and funds since the storm hit the poverty-stricken state killing nearly 10,000 people and leaving millions homeless.

The United Nations has stepped up efforts to help survivors deal with the scorching summer by building 250 special heat and monsoon shelters in eight districts critically hit by the storm last October.

But for thousands of people who shivered through the winter months in their basic shanties the nightmare never seems to end.

Although the government has funds to build 235,000 homes for the victims, the process of rebuilding homes is yet to begin because there isn't enough building material available.

"Our houses are not yet in sight. We are doomed," laments Rudra Narayan Samal of Gada Bishnupur village which was devastated by the tidal waves that swept the shore last October.

Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik says the government is taking necessary steps to help people rebuild their lives. "The government is aware of people's discomfort. To undo the damage wrought by a natural disaster is not easy, but we are doing our best to construct the houses in the shortest possible time," he said.

Activists say as temperatures soar, the threat of sunstrokes is also rising in the region where about 2,000 people died of heat stroke two years ago.

"This summer could be actually worse than ever before. Since people are shelterless, they are that much vulnerable to heat strokes," says Abhash Panda, an environmental consultant. The loss of tree cover following the storm has aggravated matters for the poor and homeless who face an unusually harsh Indian summer.

The heat has hit farm labour particularly badly and local media reports say at least seven people have died of sunstroke in the region.