Amphan Diaries, 25th May:

Basirhat, North 24 parganas “10 days more of no electricity or power connection. Large parts of the area are still flooded. And areas like Sandeshkhali we still don’t have any news, haven’t been able to connect with them in last 48 hours. The situation is terrible and very scary!” says Bikash Das.

A. Flood centres for safe shelters

1) These centres, in multiple numbers, have been built under each Panchayat. The one that Bikash spoke of has almost 500 people living in them. So physical distancing is out of the question as of now. Also no provision for any sanitization is possible.

2) Food like rice n dal and drinking water in rationed measures are being provided in these shelters. But food and milk powders or hot-water etc for babies is not available,

3) Doctors are visiting the centres once a day to attend to any emergency situations or illnesses inside the flood shelters. Diarrhoea and stomach infections due to severe heat and unclean water have started most commonly and some ORS / saltwater mix and powders are being given for that.

B. Food and water problems in the community

1) Clean drinking water has become a problem. Tube wells that are not immersed in water are far and between. Have to walk long distances to get water. Or else pay people who are getting them from long distances for you.

2) Food shortage is acute. Many regular ration shops closed as of now and the Panchayat or BDO offices are unable to provide to all

C. Homes and homelessness

1) Many homes are completely broken and destroyed. Survivors and family members have gone to BDOs for tarpaulins and plastic sheets. There is a scramble and fights for getting one sheet. The demand is almost 15000 to 20000 per block but the availability is not more than 300-350 in one BDO. So this is now become the most critical issue for the community.

2) For each home just to get back to basic structure, bamboos and materials are required. The construction work will require some labour which itself incurs a cost. Approx 30 to 40 K will be required for each of these rubbles to be cleared and then start the rebuilding of these houses.

D. District and village administrative response

1) The Panchayat and block offices have been functioning almost 24×7 for the last 2 days. The primary task was to develop the destruction and loss of life assessment report for the CMs office. This was imperative for the assessment of relief funds to be given to state government by eth centre. During this assessment all other relief tasks took a backseat and all focus was on creating a real time report.

2) As of now, the clearing of blockages and debris from eth main roads is on so that some connectivity can be established. Also the towers and poles that have been broken and collapsed are under repair work.

3) BDOs and Panchayat are saying that much of the funds in their control are already exhausted for the covid emergency (lockdown) work on treatments, awareness generation etc. And hence they have no relief funds now with them for this emergency. Some of them said that they hardly have 2 -3% of their funds actually available with their offices. The applications for urgent funds has gone to the State but there has been communication that these funds are now difficult and will only come slowly at the best in the next few weeks.

4) Local MLAs who were approached talked about all untied and emergency funds that they have at their disposal are also barely available.

E. Offices of grassroots CBOs (community based organisations) and response

1) The offices and many documents are destroyed. Computers and CPUs have been damaged. The roofs of offices have been blown away and the Basirhat and Sandeshkhali offices are flooded at present. Trees have fallen on walls damaging them.

2) Due to the lockdown situation and the flooded areas and road blockages now with fallen trees everywhere, it is almost difficult to reach the offices of Panchayats or BDOs. However applications for houses, tarpaulins, food and medicines have started and being sent to BDOs over WhatsApp and telecons.

3) Sharing the photos and audio recordings from survivors calls with the duty-bearers is also being sent with these applications.

4) To focus and ensure that the names and vulnerability assessment information is regularly sent to the Panchayats and BDOs so that their names are ensured in the lists being developed by the district administration.

F. Survivors’ and families’ conditions

1) As of now the social workers (atleast those who are accessible themselves) are trying to contact each of the survivors to get an idea of the individual situation and extent of loss and damage.

2) Atleast 60% survivors in most areas (as reported by 3 social workers) are not reachable as of now. Due to no electricity phones are probably uncharged and hence switched off.

3) 2 survivors and their families have been shifted to the flood centre by TISM (Teghoria Institute of Social Management(. There must be a similar or more numbers in the other CBOs as well.

4) Those who could be connected have been very emotional and in despair about losing all belongings and homes. Is being very difficult to hear the heart breaking information over the phones

5) As and when they are getting in touch, social workers are being able to draw up a picture of the issues of shelter and food and health.

6) There is no report of any casualty or hospitalisation as of now.

Bikash Das |
Tuesday , June 16, 2020

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