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Friday, November 12, 1999 Published at 17:01 GMT


World: South Asia

Eyewitness: Aid worker relives Orissa horror

Villages in ruins: Aid agencies are unable to reach many areas

As international appeals to bring aid to the victims of the Orissa cyclone gathers pace, Dominic Nutt of the UK's Christian Aid charity tells BBC News Online what he saw when he arrived in the Indian state.

Orissa: After the storm
They told me what to expect: death and destruction.

I didn't pay much heed to the words then. But as we stepped from the plane, blinking in the midday sun at Bhubaneshwar airport, the capital of Orissa, the warning rushed back as the incomprehensible images swam before me.

As the journalists and aid workers spilled off the plane, we were confronted by crowds of desperate locals.

They thronged around us, pleading for help and told us of lost families, lost children and of houses washed away in the tidal waves thrown up by the cyclone.

As we moved through what was left of the state we experienced a cloying stench of death hanging in the air, mixed with the sweet smell of thyme and hyacinths growing by the side of the road.


[ image: Aid: Agencies say victims need life-saving basics]
Aid: Agencies say victims need life-saving basics
We found bodies everywhere - and it hurt to see it.

But it is the little things which brought home the reality.

The look in the old woman's eyes sitting alone in the ruins of her village, gently sobbing.

The body of a women, just lying there, fear etched on her face, her hand clawed in the sand.

And the ashes of the funeral pyre among the scorched grass where a child's wrist bone lay, still wearing a tiny trinket.

These were somebody's mother, somebody's sister, somebody's baby.

However, it is these images which explain the whole and which are indicative of the pain which has engulfed Orissa.


[ image: Many communities lost entire crops]
Many communities lost entire crops
Even now there is no power and no telephone communications, roads still remain blocked, train lines remain patchy.

And all this in one of India's poorest states.

The death toll is likely to be much higher than current figures - it could rise to 20,000.

But the true figure will never be known as many of those who died will never be found.

Even now villages remain cut off and are yet to be reached by aid workers.

Their inhabitants are prey to starvation and disease.

With 80% of water contaminated with sea salt and rotten flesh, there are genuine fears of a typhoid and cholera epidemic.

Mosquitoes are breeding in the stagnant pools of water which aid agencies fear will lead to an increase in the killer disease malaria.


[ image: Villagers are drawing water from contaminated rivers]
Villagers are drawing water from contaminated rivers
It is clear that the victims of Orissa's cyclone need help and they need it now.

They need food, shelter, medicine.

They need our help to rebuild their lives.

Saving lives is easy. For example £5 will buy 10 blankets or food to feed a family.

And Britain's charities such as Christian Aid are already working in the area bringing vital help.

A pound donated today will be helping the victims tomorrow.

It's as simple as that.

To donate to the India Cyclone Appeal ring 0870 60 60 900.

Donations can also be made at any high street bank or post office.


Pictures: Dominic Nutt, Christian Aid




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12 Nov 99 | South Asia
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Internet Links


DEC Orissa cyclone appeal

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Christian Aid


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