Cyclone-struck Odisha sets an example of Quick Management and Survival

Odisha was hit by an extremely severe cyclonic storm, Fani on May 3, 2019. Though it left a trail of destruction across large parts of coastal Odisha, the state draws accolades for being disaster ready. Its management has emerged as a global example of how timely weather alerts, preparedness and informed public participation can dramatically reduce the loss of life. While this efficient emergency response sets an example for other vulnerable states, it also signals the need to prioritise climate-resilient infrastructure and buildings to minimise the humongous cost of reconstruction.

The relatively low mortality shows a dramatic transformation from the loss of over 10,000 lives in 1999 when super cyclone 05B struck. Odisha then worked to upgrade its preparedness, and this time the death toll was reduced to 34. Early weather warnings hold the key to better management, and during the Fani episode, the India Meteorological Department played a crucial role. Its commendable performance has been recognised by the UN as well. The Odisha government and the Centre now have the task of rebuilding infrastructure.

The priority in Odisha is to restore electricity and telecommunications, which will require massive manpower. Public health interventions are paramount to avoid disease outbreaks. The State government has been able to restore some physical movement by opening up highways and district roads; the Centre has relieved tension among students by postponing the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test in Odisha. Overall, there is a sense of relief that in the midst of a national election the toll was effectively contained.

Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik announced a relief package, saying that all families in Puri and parts of Khurda will get 50kg rice, Rs 2,000 and polythene sheets under the Food Security Act (FSA). For the “severely affected” category in Khurda, the FSA families will get a month’s quota of rice, Rs 1,000 and polythene sheets, he added. “We are in the process of restoring physical infrastructure,” the CM said. Chief minister Patnaik said assistance of Rs 95,100 each will be provided for “fully damaged” houses, Rs 52,000 for “partially damaged” houses and Rs 3,200 for houses that had suffered minor damage. “The government has made arrangements to provide cooked food for free over the next 15 days. We will also take up tree plantation on a mission mode,” he added.

More than 60,000 people, including officials and volunteers, were involved in relief operations, said special relief commissioner Bishnupada Sethi, who monitored the evacuation. Medical professionals are also in the field to prevent possible outbreaks of epidemics, Sethi added.

The PM undertook an aerial survey of Pipili, Puri, Konark, Nimapada and Bhubaneswar areas, which were badly hit by the calamity. Odisha Governor Ganeshi Lal, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan also accompanied the Prime Minister in the aerial survey. Thereafter, the Prime Minister chaired a meeting of the senior officers of the State and Central Governments to take stock of the damage caused by the cyclone and the relief and rehabilitation measures are being undertaken. The PM announced immediate assistance of Rs 1000 crores for the cyclone-hit state. He promised further assistance after assessment by an inter-ministerial Central team.

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