Bhubaneswar: Back in 1999, when Odisha was hit by a cyclone, thousands had lost their lives. The state was left in shambles with the story of despair and fear written all over it.
Twenty years later in 2019, when cyclone Fani hit the eastern coast of India, the state was better prepared to handle the crisis.
Odisha is prone to incessant rainfall, cyclone and extreme weather conditions. The state is among the poorer states in India with coastal cities and villages exposed to the cyclone.
The administration had a daunting task to manage; evacuation of more than a million people from low lying coastal areas to shelter homes.
In this process, they had to ensure the expediency and immediacy.
The New York Times reports that the state engaged in 2.6 million text messages, 43,000 volunteers, around 1,000 emergency workers, buses, police and civic administration and reaching every lane of every village informing the last man about the nearing disaster.
Cyclone Fani thundered Odisha on the morning of May 3rd carrying winds at the speed of 120 miles per hour.
The impact was huge as trees and structures were ripped from their roots. While the millions were evacuated, very few lives were lost.
“We have a very serious commitment on this — there should not be any loss of life,” Bishnupada Sethi, the state’s special relief commissioner, who has been supervising the operation spoke to the NYT. “This is not the work of a day or a month but of 20 years.”
After the catastrophe in 1999, the state undertook the construction of numerous cyclone shelters. These were built miles away from the seashore.
Designed by some prestigious engineering colleges, the shelters, basic in design, have been of great help.
The Indian Meteorological Department had kept a close eye on the movement of the cyclone. Its path was accurately predicted and it landed at Odisha coast. Odisha’s fishermen were warned beforehand.
On the morning when the storm hit the coast, Odisha government had released a five page action plan prioritizing the safety of lives.
Having practised the evacuation drills on numerous counts, the task was clear in volunteers’ minds.
Food and beverages were delivered at the shelters. The loudspeakers kept asking people to reach the nearest shelter at the earliest.
In some areas, police officers escorted the emergency workers who moved through the coastal towns, asking people to leave.
Packed buses made rounds around Puri. Each shelter accommodated several hundred people.
In Puri, the officials said the winds reached at the speed of100 m.p.h. knocking down the very machine which measured the speed.
Though the lives were not lost, it did affect livelihoods. However, the storm of 1999 did prepare the state to gear for this battle.
Evacuating a million plus people in a span of 3-4 days was a challenging task. The bitterness sown in 2019 bore sweets in 2019....