On May 25, 2009, Cyclone Aila made landfall in southern Bangladesh and eastern India. The Times of India reported that the storm took an unusual turn directly to the north, causing it to rip through areas rarely affected by tropical storms, including the famed Makaibari Tea Estate in India’s Darjeeling region. A relief effort is underway to help the managers, workers and families at Makaibari who were affected by Cyclone Aila, and Arbor Teas has committed to raising whatever funds it can to assist in rebuilding effort.
Rajah Banerjee, CEO of Makaibari described the cyclone as “devastating”:
“On the night of 25th May, a fierce cyclone hit us with all its fury. It sped across the vast plains of Bengal, and winds, which were 139 miles an hour, increased its intensity once it was funneled into crevasses of the Himalayan foothills. Makaibari, in the Darjeeling subdistrict of Kurseong was the first on its deadly path of mayhem, death and destruction.”
“The ferocity of the wind-lashed rain was so great that the window panes turned to dust on impact – there were scarcely any shards. To see it happen in front of one’s eyes is an absolute trauma. Branches of trees snapped off easily. Thousands of them swirled around throughout the night of the storm like unguided missiles, impaling and destroying. It was a night of terror, the likes of which has never been experienced before.“
In the Wake of the Disaster
Various media estimate the death toll from 28 to nearly ten times that number. The storm also caused widespread damage to homes, roads, communications and services in the area. At Makaibari, it is estimated that 20% of the housing on the estate has been impacted, ranging from roof destruction to total collapse.
It is reported that the cyclone also damaged the roof of the tea factory and the manager’s complex. In addition to loss of life and damage to structures, the estate lost 12 acres of tea in the rains that accompanied the storm. The storm arrived at the height of the tea picking season, and while harvesting in some areas resumed a week after the devastation, many of the roads used to transport the tea have been washed away by landslides. In all, Makaibari’s losses are estimated to be US$1.5 million to US$2 million.
How You Can Help
While the loss of life caused by this catastrophe can not be undone, there is hope of restoring shelter and services to the workers and familiers at Makaibari, and returning the estate to full functionality, thereby securing its economic future, and making sure that their wonderful teas continue to be made and distributed worldwide. Your contibution will go a long way toward these objectives. An estimated US$330,000 is needed for the following work:
- Food, clothes, blankets and utensils for families living in the temporary shelters
- Repairs and restoration of houses
- Road repairs
- Restoration of water and electricity supply
All contributions received will be sent IN FULL to Jeevika, the local NGO that is coordinating relief efforts. Jeevika will monitor all disbursements and expenditure of funds in accordance with Indian regulations. Any contribution, however small, would be greatly appreciated.