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India Journal: Cyclone Hudhud

I recently returned from a 10-day trip to visit Trickle Up in India.  Inspired by the people I met every day, I kept a detailed travel diary.  In five installments that will be posted to the Trickle Up blog through next week, I hope to convey a first-hand view of the great work that Trickle Up is doing in India and our potential for even greater impact.  I invite your comments and questions, either posted to the Trickle Up blog or emailed to me directly  at abramsw@trickleup.org. This is part 2 in a series.

Bill Abrams
President, Trickle Up

Cyclone-Hudhud_header

The big news on TV and in the papers this morning is Cyclone Hudhud.  Around midday on Sunday it hit the Indian states of Andra Pradesh and Odisha, with the greatest impact in AP (the typical shorthand for Andhra Pradesh. Speaking of state names and abbreviations, the British changed the name of Odisha to Orissa in 1936 and the name Odisha was officially restored in 2011).

Cyclone prone areas

Cyclone prone areas in India

I am especially concerned about Hudhud because we are planning to travel to Odisha on Friday to visit several villages where Trickle Up works.

Similar to a hurricane, a cyclone is a giant swirling wind that lifts an enormous volume of water over a land mass.  Cyclones are relatively common, with major ones occurring every 7-10 years along the Bay of Bengal.  Cyclone Aila in 2009 affected several hundred Trickle Up participants in West Bengal.  Cyclones destroy property on a massive scale, can kill many thousands, ruin crops and livestock.  The salt water of a cyclone contaminates farm land and drinking water for animals.

Hudhud’s speed was reported to be up to 112 miles per hour.  There were 15 inches of rain in about 24 hours and, combined with water whipped up from the Bay of Bengal, Hudhud was a grave threat to millions of people in the two Indian states.

While there was heavy damage -- especially in the port city of Visakhapatnam in AP -- to buildings, power plants and airports, only 46 deaths in AP and an estimated 6 in Odisha were reported. India has developed impressive resources to cope with various types of natural disasters.  As Hudhud approached, the government relocated an estimated 400,000 people to less vulnerable locations.

The Indian government has extensive weather forecasting systems and disaster-preparedness plans, which helped reduce the impact of Hudhud on people, if not on the buildings and farm land.  Special credit is being given to an Indian weather forecasting satellite that was launched in July 2013 and went into operation this January.  While the Indian space agency ISRO received a great deal of attention just a few weeks earlier when it successfully sent an orbiter around Mars, its INSAT-3D weather satellite may have been its most heroic achievement.

Next in the series: THOUGHT LEADERS & HANDHOLDERS

"...As distinguished as the panelists were, the speakers who stole the show were five women who had never finished school, lived a lifetime of poverty, and were in Delhi for the first time in their lives.  No doubt also the first time they’d ever been in a hotel or slept in the kind of bed that you and I sleep on.  These "didis" ("sisters") were all graduates of Trickle Up, and they were there to give their perspective on ultrapoverty...."

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