With over 600,000 people fleeing to safer ground and evacuation zones, Cyclone Phailin is causing one of the largest mass evacuations in India’s history. With the devastating effects of a 1999 super-cyclone still in living memory, the government and people in the region knew that to stay put was to potentially risk their lives.
And yet, media are reporting that some people did stay behind in coastal areas. An Associated Press report includes a wrenching quote from a mother who was terrified by what may have happened to her son: “My son had to stay back with his wife because of the cattle and belongings," said 70-year-old Kaushalya Jena, weeping in fear inside the makeshift shelter. "I don't know if they are safe."
Sadly, we have heard this all too often. People refuse to evacuate emergency or disaster zones unless something is done for their animals. I’ve been to Odisha and have seen how closely people live with their animals and how linked their livelihoods are to the wellbeing of their livestock.
BabajiSahu and his nine year old cow “Dhauli” of Subola village, Odisha State.WSPA helped them and their village by sponsoring the construction of a two storey fodder bank so that animal feed is not washed away or spoiled by flood waters.
In the hours leading up to Phailin’s landfall on India’s eastern seaboard, we launched a series of public service announcements through our partners on the ground, with advice to help people protect their animals:
If it is safe for you to do so, move your animals to higher ground or a designated safe place
- Bring a 72 hour supply of suitable food and water.
- Travel with emergency kit for your animals (this may include animal identification and records / documents / important contact numbers /first aid).
If you have no choice but to leave your livestock behind
- Before evacuating, and if it is safe for you to do so, move them to higher ground. Leave them enough food and clean water for 72 hours. They will need protection from the elements and shelter.
- Untie them so they have a chance to escape should floodwaters rise. Tethered or penned animals have no chance in a flood or storm surge. Animals are strong swimmers and untying them gives them a chance to survive.
- When returning after flood waters have receded, have plenty of fresh water available.
- On your return, check and secure fencing as these may have shifted in the floods.
We still don’t know Phailin's toll on animals. Preliminary reports suggest preparedness and risk mitigation may have kept human deaths and injuries low, but we won’t know for hours and possibly days until remote and coastal areas are properly accounted for.
We are sending a team out to the areas that took a direct hit from the cyclone tomorrow. Check back here or on our website for updates on how the animals are doing.