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On 27th October 1999. Prashant went to meet one of his friends who lived in Ersama. The place was eighteen kilometres from his village. In the evening, a super cyclone came. Winds beat against the houses with great fury. There was heavy and continuous rain. Houses and people have washed away against the flood. His friend’s house was made of bricks and cement. it was strong enough to survive the wind blowing at 350 km per hour. But one uprooted tree fell on their house and damaged some part of its roof and walls. To escape the waters rising in the house, Prashant and his friend’s family took range on the roof. For the next two days, Prashant sat huddled with his friend’s family on the rooftop. They froze in the cold and the rain. In the early morning, Prashant saw the destruction caused by the cyclone. There was a sheet of water everywhere. Only pans of cemented houses were still visible. All other houses had been washed away. Even huge trees had fallen. Bloated dead bodies of animals and human beings were floating everywhere.
The destruction caused by the cyclone and the waves of the ocean continued for the next thirty-six hours. Two days later, the rain ceased and the rainwater slowly began to recede. Prashant was worried about his fam-lately. He took a long stick and started on the eighteen kilometres long and difficult journey to his village. There was water everywhere. He had to use his stick to locate the road. At places, it was waist deep and the progress was slow Sometimes. he lost the road and had to swim. After some distance, he found two friends of his uncle. They decided to move ahead together. They had to push away many human bodies floating on the water. There were also carcasses of dogs, goats and cattle. in every village they passed, they could barely see a house standing. He feared that his family could not have survived the cyclone. At last, he reached his village Kalikuda. His heart sank. His house was gone. His family was nowhere. In order to look for his family, Prashant went to the Red Cross shelter. Fortunately, his family was alive. They were very glad to see Prashant. He came to know that eighty-six lives were lost in his village and all the ninety-six houses had been washed away.
The cyclone caused a lot of damage in Prashant’s village and surrounding areas. Prashant decided to help his own family and the others. He organised a group of youths. They pressurized the local merchant to give rice to the starving villagers. They burnt a fire and cooked the rice, although it was rotting. His next step was to clean the place of filth, dirt, urine and floating dead bodies. They tended the wounds and fractures of many who had been injured. On the fifth day, a military helicopter dropped food. But it did not return. Prashant and others devised a plan to attract the attention of the helicopters. They deputed children to lie there with empty utensils on their stomachs. This was done to communicate to the helicopters that they were hungry. The scheme worked and the helicopters started dropping food regularly.
Prashant brought the orphaned children and made a shelter for them. He asked the woman to look after them. But he found that women and children were sinking deeper and deeper into their grief. A non-government organization had started a portion of food for work programme. Prashant persuaded them to join it. He engaged other volunteers to help widows start their lives again. The orphaned children were resettled in their own community.
Though six months have passed since the cyclone caused heavy destruction, the widows and orphaned children of the village still seek Prashant in their hour of grief and need.
This story is a true account of the devastation brought about in Orissa in 1999 by a super cyclone. On 7th October 1999, Prashant, a young boy of 19, went to Ersama to his friend’s house. Ersama is a small town in coastal Orissa which is eighteen kilometres from his village. When the cyclone hit the coastal Orissa, Prashant was in Ersama. The cyclone continued for 36 hours. It brought down all the houses and huge old trees. Prashant had to spend two days at Ersama. He was worried about his family. He started for his village. He covered eighteen kilometres of distance to his village through the waist-deep water, he had to push away many human bodies and carcasses of animals. Eventually, Prashant reached his village. His heart went cold. He thought his family could not have survived the catastrophe. He was happy to see his family safe in the Red Cross camp. Prashant decided to come forward and arrange food and medicine for the victims. He formed a group of youth and elders. They pressurised the local merchant to give them some rice. They cleaned the shelter of filth, urine, etc. The volunteers tended to the wounds of the injured. On the fifth day, some government help reached their village but it was scanty. Prashant made the children lie on the sand with utensils on the stomach. The passing helicopters got the message and they returned with more help. Prashant decided to bring the orphaned children together. He made a shelter for them. He encouraged the women to work under `Food for Work’ programme started by an NGO. He arranged social events. He made the childless widows look after the orphaned children. He did not let anybody suffer. The widows and the orphaned children looked upon Prashant as their saviour.