Media CenterCRS Responds as Cyclone Fani Slams into India and Bangladesh

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Catholic Relief Services
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Nikki Gamer
Catholic Relief Services
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CRS is working with local partners to get food and other life-saving supplies to those in the storm's direct path

UPDATED  BALTIMORE, MARYLAND, May 3, 2019 – As tropical Cyclone Fani bears down on India and Bangladesh, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is working with local partners in both countries to provide people with immediate support.

More than 1.2 million had been evacuated from Odisha state, which is located on India’s northeastern coast along the Bay of Bengal and where the storm made landfall early Friday morning. There have been reports of 7 deaths, but those numbers will likely rise as the scope of the devastation becomes clear in the storm’s aftermath.

As the storm approached India, CRS assisted the government with evacuations and is now supporting partners who are helping coordinate food distributions inside evacuation centers.

“For two days we have helped with evacuations in Odisha. Now that Cyclone Fani has made landfall, we’ve shifted to planning for a response,” said Kirti Mishra, CRS India’s head of operations, who is located in the heart of the storm in Bhubaneshwar in Odisha State. “Evacuating 1.2 million people will save lives, but those people will need support as they return to damaged homes, lost crops, and interrupted work and income. We have emergency relief supplies like tarpaulins, sleeping mats, cooking utensils and hygiene kits ready to go in warehouses in Odisha. As soon as it’s safe to move out, our teams and partners will identify the families who need assistance in hard hit areas.”

In Bangladesh, CRS is working with our partner Caritas, along with local community groups, to help children and the elderly get into the area’s cyclone shelters as quickly as possible. CRS has supplied evacuation shelters with food and water; additional items will be supplied in the coming days as the extent of the damage becomes known.

“The strength of the cyclone hasn’t weakened as we expected when it hit India, so it is still quite big. If the wind speed doesn’t reduce further, it will have a major impact on infrastructure and homes, which are made of bamboo and mud,” said Snigdha Chakraborty, CRS’ country manager in Bangladesh who is currently in Dhaka. “As people stream into cyclone shelters, we’ve seen families bring with them as many of their belongings as possible—including cattle and other livestock. Our main concern is that people here are already living in an extremely vulnerable, low-lying area—so even a smaller storm could wipe out all of a family’s belongings. The wind and rising water will undoubtedly have an impact. We’ll have to wait and see what damage will be done.”   

In Bangladesh, there have been reports of damage to river dykes as water levels rise. In addition, about 20% of the area’s crops have already been lost because farmers didn’t have enough time before the storm to harvest them.  

“Our priority after the storm will be shelter and getting people back to their homes and ready to rebuild what's lost," Chakraborty said.

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As Cyclone Fani barrels toward India and Bangladesh, CRS prepares its response 

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND, May 2, 2019 – Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is preparing for Cyclone Fani to make landfall with teams in India and Bangladesh ready to respond to emergency needs in the storm’s immediate aftermath.

“Given the size and strength of this storm, it has the potential to leave a wake of devastation in its path. Our teams on the ground are making last-minute preparations so we can respond as soon as the storm moves on,” said Caroline Brennan, the director of communications for CRS’ humanitarian response team. “We are working closely with our Church partners in both India and Bangladesh who are best placed to assess the damage and respond quickly.” 

In India, more than 800,000 people have been evacuated from Odisha state, which is located on India’s northeastern coast along the Bay of Bengal and where the storm is expected to make immediate landfall. In Bangladesh, CRS has already started distributing shelter supplies in the Cox’s Bazaar refugee camp in the south-eastern part of the country, where nearly a million Rohingya refugees are living.

“With reports that this storm will be the strongest to hit India in nearly five years, we’re taking every precaution necessary to make sure that those in the storm’s direct path have as much support as possible to cope with what could be major devastation,” Brennan said.   

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Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency alleviates suffering and provides assistance to people in need in more than 100 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. CRS’ relief and development work is accomplished through programs of emergency response, HIV, health, agriculture, education, microfinance and peacebuilding.  For more information, visit www.crs.org or www.crsespanol.org and follow Catholic Relief Services on social media in English at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube; and in Spanish at: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Nikki Gamer

Media Relations Manager

Nikki Gamer
May 3, 2019

Based in Baltimore, MD

Nikki is the Media Relations Manager for CRS and connects journalists to regional stories and sources related to the agency’s life-saving development work. Previously, Nikki worked as the Communications Officer for the Middle East, Europe, and Central Asia. She has covered CRS’ response to the Syrian refugee crisis and the mass displacement of...More