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Wednesday, 10 November 1971
Page: 3222

Mr REID - I ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs a question. It is reported that some 10,000 people died and another 5 million are in urgent need of assistance as a result of the cyclone and tidal wave that struck the Indian State of Orissa 11 days ago. Can the Minister inform the House whether the Commonwealth Government has contacted the Indian Government offering asistance? If so, what amount of aid is envisaged?

Mr N H Bowen (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - A tidal wave followed a cyclone and it has affected the people of Orissa. There have been various reports about the matter. Certainly the Press reports indicated that there had been 10,000 deaths - the number ultimately might prove to be greater than that - and that 500,000 people had been affected. It was stated also that 250,000 of these people had been rendered homeless and that there was very considerable destruction of rice crops. I have taken the opportunity to discuss this matter with our High Commissioner in India. Mr Patrick Shaw, who has been brought back to Australia by the Government to discuss the question of aid to the East Pakistan refugees in India and also this problem arising from the cyclone. We are currently looking into the matter. I do not think that these figures would necessarily be accurate or the final figures, but there is no doubt that a very considerable disaster has occured in the area.

I am not able to tell the honourable member at the moment what the Government will do in relation to this matter. It is something which currently we are studying, and 1 might say that I shall have a further talk with Mr Patrick Shaw tomorrow. However, the Government has a policy of acting promptly to get aid on the ground in areas requiring assistance. 1 could call attention to the fact that disasters occur from time to lime. One cannot estimate when they will occur. Since the refugee problem arose, of course, there was a typhoon in South Vietnam about 3 weeks ago known as Hester, which caused enormous damage in that country. The Government acted promptly on that occasion, having ascertained that many people were homeless because roofs had been blown off their houses. Earlier this month 4,800 sheets of corrugated iron, which was said to be very useful for the area affected, were loaded on to the 'Harima Maru', and they are on their way. They should get promptly on to the ground in the area affected and give aid where it is needed. We will be looking closely at the results of the Orissa disaster in the same way as the Government has done in all these other instances.

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