By Sunil Garodia
Cyclone Fani expectedly made landfall at Puri in Odisha on Friday. Although it left destruction in its wake, it also showed how India has moved ahead in its disaster management efforts. The cyclone lost its sting while approaching the coast – wind speeds were expected to touch 200-225 kmph but in the end, lashed the coastline at only 150 kmph. But that, along with heavy rain, was bad enough to uproot trees, electric poles and cause extensive damage to kuccha houses in Puri district and other coastal areas of Odisha. The houses of the SP and DM of the worst affected district were also badly damaged.
But if one compares the damage done by the super cyclone in 1999, when more than 10000 people were killed and the countryside was devastated, India has faced Fani with much better preparedness. Only 6 people (8, according to some reports) were reported dead and just 160 were admitted in hospitals for cyclone-related injuries. The new regional hurricane model of the Indian Meteorological Department could track the cyclone with pinpoint accuracy and predict the landfall and the movement of the cyclone much in advance. This allowed the Centre and the state government to galvanize the local administration and the disaster management teams, including 65 National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams to put their best foot forward in Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal.
More than 12 lakh people were evacuated in the three states from coastal areas that were likely to be most affected. Casualties at sea were prevented through repeated warnings and enough storm shelters were provided. Teams have been deputed for road clearance to keep relief work going in case of blocks due to falling trees and poles. Dry food is being rushed in to help the local people and there is a special emphasis on maintaining law and order. The army has also been kept ready in the three states to help the civil administration in case of an emergency. The weakened cyclone has now moved to West Bengal with wind speeds of 90-100 kmph.
The focus must now shift to relief and rescue. The devastation caused by nature needs to be attended to and the damage needs to be repaired. The poor, as always, will bear the brunt of nature’s fury. Their houses need to be rebuilt and they need to be provided with shelter, food and help till they go back to leading their normal working lives. The Centre has already released Rs 1000cr to the affected states for this. Now the local administration and the NGOs must swing into action to reduce the misery the people are going to face.