'Where do we go'? After Cyclone Titli, people in AP's Uddanam worry about their destroyed homes

In this ground report from Thoturu, residents say Cyclone Titli destroyed everything – their boats, nets and their livelihoods.
'Where do we go'? After Cyclone Titli, people in AP's Uddanam worry about their destroyed homes
'Where do we go'? After Cyclone Titli, people in AP's Uddanam worry about their destroyed homes
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Thoturu is a quaint village under Metturu Panchayat in Srikakulam District's Uddanam area in Vajrapukotturu mandal.With less than 130 households in total, it is located on a hilltop and is less than half a km away from the sea shore in Andhra Pradesh. One would expect to see a scenic setting here but instead large parts of the village is in ruins. 

The mandal was one of the worst affected areas after Cyclone Titli made landfall in the state on October 11 and Thoturu's situation is no different. The village is largely inhabited by people from the Vadabaljia (fisherman) community. Residents said that they lived a decent life even if it was not perfect, until the cyclone hit them and turned their world upside down.

Besides fishing, many also own small coconut farms spread over two or three acres and the night that the cyclone hit them, they say, was nightmarish. 

Satpalli Eashwar Rao, who is busy fetching drinking water from a vehicle belonging to the state's Fire Services Department, says, "It has been almost a week. We got drinking water after four days but we are still living in pitch darkness as the power supply is yet to be restored."

Eashwar Rao has a family of four and a coconut farm spread over 3 acres. He and several others including his neighbours have been seeking shelter in a 'relief building' constructed by the government since the cyclone made landfall. 

"I have never seen such a big cyclone in my life. Houses got damaged and our fishing boats have gone missing. Our fields were also damaged. This is a three-fold problem," says 65-year-old Eashwar.  

The building was constructed by the government as cyclones are common in the region and serves to host families whose houses get partially or completely damaged due to the wind and rain. At present, over 10 families have managed to squeeze themselves in the two-floored building as they await relief.  

Many thatched huts in fact, were flattened, and the location where they stood showed no sign of their prior existence. 

Another resident, Rammurthy Empalli, a fisherman, says, "We had to stay with empty stomachs for four days until the government arrived and delivered food. The lack of power supply has only added to our woes."

Asked if he plans to resume fishing soon, Rammurthy says, "We have lost everything four days ago including nets and boats. How can anyone expect us to go fishing?"

60-year-old Guraka Saraswathi, a fisherwoman who also has an acre or two of coconut crops, lives with her son's family. 

"Now how long, can we stay here in this building? It is not even enough for all of us at the moment. The government has to do something for us and help us relocate, otherwise with no employment, it will be tough," she says.

"If nothing comes our way, we might have to leave this place," she adds.

Haimavati Empalli, a resident, said that boats and nets were washed away in the cyclone as the sea came further into the coast before receding. She also alleged that government officials were yet to visit their village. "Except 25 kg of rice and dal, nothing was given to us. Who will assess and compensate our crop damage and destroyed houses and helps us relocate?"

Be it Vajrapukotturu, Mandasa or Sompeta, many mandals in Srikakulam district have similar tales of devastation to tell. Fields and crops are largely ruined even as several houses were defaced with several even having their roof blown off as a result of the wind. 

Chepalagondi 'Colony' in Sompeta mandal is situated less than a km away from the Bay of Bengal and has another chilling story to tell as their light cement-roofed houses were also damaged in the cyclone.

The colony has nearly 20 houses with most of its dwellers, either daily wage labourers in cashew and coconut farms in neighbouring villages, or are involved in the fishing industry. At first glance itself, it is evident that the entire colony is in ruins, as roofs were damaged if the houses were not destroyed completely.

As this reporter had traveled to the colony along with a few other journalists and activists, residents kept requesting for help and assurance that the government would assist them in rebuilding their lives. 

Teppala Damayanti, a woman who is seemingly in her early 60s, breaks down into tears as she shows her single room house which has almost lost one entire wall. "The cyclone brought it all down. We have lost grains that we had stored as well. Please make sure some help comes our way," she says.

S Vajramma, another resident, said "Roofs were blown away in the wind and there has been no power and drinking water. The government should help us."

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