Makaibari Tea Estate Ravaged by Cyclone Aila; Needs Your Help!

Makaibari Relief

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
Devastation at MakaibariVarious 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.

Another way you can show your support for the Makaibari Estate is to buy their teas! Arbor Teas is very proud to carry four of their outstanding selections – try some today!

July 01 2009 10:51 am | Media and Miscellaneous

3 Responses to “Makaibari Tea Estate Ravaged by Cyclone Aila; Needs Your Help!”

  1. Jason Witt on 14 Jul 2009 at 4:48 am #

    This is too bad. It just figures that the storm would hit one of the most famous estates for making the finest of teas favored in the West. God have mercy on these families and workers…

  2. Sid on 15 Jul 2009 at 10:12 am #

    Good heavens!!! I had recently talked to relatives in Assam,but I wasnt aware of the Makaibari Estate being in the path of the storm.
    Lets hope they can recover soon.
    Their Second Flush tea is one of the best Darjeeling teas i have ever tasted.

  3. Emily on 03 Aug 2009 at 9:14 am #

    Tourism has also recently been affected in the region due to Gorkhaland strikes. I had planned to visit Makaibari this July and was unable to because of the strikes.

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