How Met, NDMA got it right, Orissa put 1999 behind

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  1. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    How Met, NDMA got it right, Orissa put 1999 behind

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    While the severity of Cyclone Phailin was by most indications lesser than the 1999 storm, one of the potentially worst natural disasters to hit India in years was averted due to a combination of efforts — including by the Meteorological Department, the state government and Centre.

    "Hundreds feared killed as winds with a velocity of over 260 km per hour batter 10 coastal districts of Orissa for over eight hours. A panicked state government, ill prepared, calls in for help. The scale of devastation not known even a day after the disaster as communication to thousands of villages cut off. The blame for not preparing for the calamity falls equally on the Weather Department".

    That was the news that hit the front page of this newspaper on October 30, 1999, the day after the super cyclone hit Orissa .

    Cut 14 years ahead and the story of Phailin is totally different: 9,800 died then, 18 deaths have been reported so far this time; a few thousand evacuated then, more than 9 lakh taken to rescue shelters in 2013; communications completely destroyed then, Orissa is already talking about restoration now.

    While the severity of Cyclone Phailin was by most indications lesser than the 1999 storm, one of the potentially worst natural disasters to hit India in years was averted due to a combination of efforts — including by the Meteorological Department, the state government and Centre. And it could become a role model for future disaster mitigation in the country.

    The state government

    A forewarned state government did not shy away this time from seeking all possible help from the Centre and carried out a mass evacuation programme. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik personally called up Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as well as the Defence Minister to press the importance of the matter.

    In 1999, when the super cyclone struck, then

    chief minister Giridhar Gamang was consulting his astrologers, who reportedly assured him that Cyclone O5B would split into two and fly over Orissa. Officials could not convince people in Jagatsinghpur that tidal surges could kill them. When the cyclone struck finally, there was no electricity even in the state secretariat as no one had thought of arranging a generator.

    It was only after the scale of the devastation became clear that the Gamang government requested the Centre to send in armed forces and to seek "immediate release" of Rs 500 crore for rescue and relief.

    This time, more than 72 hours before Phailin reached the coast, the state had initiated preparations for its arrival — evacuating people from coastal districts, mobilising officials and setting up temporary relief camps. Evacuation of 9,12,848 people was achieved in time, despite only 48 hours of notice being available for the precise location of the storm's landfall.

    The state government pushed all available legislators to oversee work in their constituencies and government officials were told to work extra shifts despite it being festive season. With the ground well covered, the state is confident that within 24 hours, power will be restored in the affected parts and by 48 hours all roads will be cleared.

    As things stand, 15 districts have been hit, including 14,514 villages. No major physical casualty has taken place and the damage has basically been to communications.

    By mid-morning Sunday, the state government had conveyed that it would not be requiring the services of thousands of personnel who had been put on standby and hundreds who had been rushed in.

    The Weather Department

    Defending its turf in the face of foreign 'experts' who predicted, varyingly, total annihilation to gentle winds, a well-equipped and confident India Meteorological Department (IMD) managed to not only get the scale of the natural event correct but was also as accurate as possible in the location of where the storm would hit the coast.

    In 1999, the IMD had four long days to track and warn about the cyclone approaching Orissa. Lacking modern technology, there were only two days of warning that a simple cyclone originating from the Malay peninsula had picked up speed in the Bay of Bengal to emerge as a super cyclone.


    This time, it stuck to its stand that it wasn't a super cyclone, contrary to proclamations by global experts. Director General, Meteorology, L S Rathore, in fact, rubbished the panic over Phailin, asking reporters to trust the IMD's expertise. Rathore's confidence was not ill-founded. Unlike 1999, the IMD of 2013 has an arsenal of sophisticated equipment, acquired over the 11th Plan period, plus the information gleaned through India's remote sensing satellites.

    Rathore Sunday said that the accuracy in predicting the strength and nature of Phailin came from several measures taken over the past few years. "We have been improving our observation system. The development of human resources has also helped," he said, adding that the creation of a separate Ministry of Earth Sciences was crucial as this led to better interaction and transfer of operational systems.

    As part of Phase I of the comprehensive modernisation of the Earth System Sciences Organisation between 2007-12, the weather office acquired state-of-the-art automatic weather stations, automatic rain gauges, doppler weather radars, as well as monitoring, analysis, visualisation and product dissemination systems, besides global/regional/meso-scale forecast models with real-time data assimilation through high-performance computing systems.

    Specifically to keep an eye on weather conditions in real time, 24X7 monitoring systems are in place backed by 675 air weather stations, while 1,024 automatic rain gauges and 17 S and C-Band doppler weather radars have been commissioned at Chennai, Sriharikota, Machilipatnam, Visakhapatnam, Kolkata, Mumbai, Bhuj, Hyderabad, Nagpur, Patiala, Delhi Palam and Delhi Lodhi Road, Lucknow, Patna, Mohanbari (Assam), Agartala and Jaipur.

    The Centre

    Learning its lessons from the Uttarakhand tragedy, it lost no time in mass mobilisation of the three armed forces. It deployed nearly 2,500 National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) personnel. Out of this, 29 teams were deployed in Orissa, 19 in Andhra Pradesh and 7 in West Bengal. To accommodate those affected, 250 cyclone shelters were set up.

    A day after the cyclone made landfall, the Centre acknowledged that casualties had been minimised due to advance and timely warnings from the IMD, early evacuation and the preparedness of disaster management authorities. The monitoring and coordination system activated after the recent Uttarakhand flash floods was put to test during Phailin and so far had made good progress in containing the cyclone and its aftermath, officials said.

    The NDMA (National Disaster Management Authority) reported receiving nearly 400 calls at the NDRF Control Room in Delhi, seeking cyclone-related information. NDMA officials said around 100 persons were still stranded in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa, and NDRF personnel were on their way to rescue them.

    As per preliminary reports, the NDRF, using sophisticated tree-cutting equipment, has cleared the 15-km Konark-Puri road.

    A DIG from the NDRF is stationed at Bhubaneswar to coordinate rescue and relief work in both the states. Over the past three days, the NDMA, which works under the Ministry of Home Affairs, tied up with Andhra Pradesh and Orissa to set up a 24-hour control room. Also on the standby is a 30-member quick response medical team, including personnel from Central government hospitals and the CGHS (Central Government Health Scheme).

    The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has set up 10 teams of public health professionals to counter the chance of epidemics, as well as a team of psychological experts.

    Defence Ministry personnel were also pressed into service, but eventually did not have to be used as most of the people were evacuated in time. The Army, Air Force and Navy columns are now helping the state government restore transportation and communication facilities. More than 55 Army colums will continue to remain on high alert due to floods expected in parts of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Bihar in the next 48 hours.

    Large assets of the three Services and Coast Guard will also remain on standby. The Air Force has allocated 30 helicopters and 13 transport aircraft, including the two recently acquired Hercules. The Navy has kept its large warships ready at Visakhapatnam, with rations for 10,000 persons, potable water and medical teams. The Coast Guard has 15 of its ships on alert at Kakinada, Paradip and Visakhapatnam — their helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft have already commenced patrolling the coast. On Sunday evening, they rescued 19 Chinese and one Indonesian crewmen of the sunken Panamanian ship MV Bingo.

    How Met, NDMA got it right, Orissa put 1999 behind - Indian Express
     
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  3. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Turning point Phailin

    Baijayant ‘Jay’ Panda

    India must upgrade disaster monitoring and response systems. It could learn from Odisha

    In October 1999, Naveen Patnaik had been an MP for two and a half years, and a minister in Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's cabinet for a year and a half, when the so-called Super Cyclone hit Odisha. Though not even remotely connected with politics earlier, he had not only replaced his late, legendary father Biju Patnaik in Parliament, but had subsequently founded the Biju Janata Dal and led it to success in the 1998 and 1999 Lok Sabha elections.

    The Super Cyclone was the worst ever in the Northern Indian Ocean since records had been kept, and ripped through Odisha, killing thousands. It not only laid waste to vast swathes of the state, but also cut it off from the rest of the world for three days, before communication and transport links could be restored.

    What stood out in the public mind in the midst of that devastation was the ineptitude of the state government, which appeared unprepared and taken mostly by surprise. Senior political figures of the ruling party were seen to be squabbling, there were widespread allegations of corruption in the procurement of relief materials, and it was visible for all to see that many lives could have been saved if only the preparations had been more than cursory.

    Alongwith the then defence minister, George Fernandes, Naveen Patnaik was on the first Air Force flight to Odisha, though it had to turn back due to the weather. Nevertheless, as a Union minister, he mobilised central support for relief and rehabilitation and earned widespread admiration for his efforts. It was no surprise that in Odisha's assembly elections four months later, he swept into office as chief minister.

    That certainly left a lasting impression on the then neophyte politician, for since then, there has never been a calamity in Odisha, major or minor, that he has not personally monitored and ensured government responsiveness to. And Odisha, with a nearly 500 km coastline, has a propensity for several minor floods and cyclones every year, with bigger ones every other year or so.

    While Odisha's preparations for cyclone Phailin seem to have come as a pleasant surprise to many around the country, the people of Odisha had come to expect it. During several major, middling, and minor natural disasters during the last 14 years, Naveen Patnaik has not only led by example, but has gradually honed the state administration's disaster management capabilities to a very high standard.

    Take, for instance, the flooding of August and September of 2011. While not as devastating as Phailin, it was nevertheless very major, causing immense damage in 19 districts, with about 100 casualties. Yet, flooding of a similar magnitude in the early 1980s had killed thousands, and that too on a much smaller denominator of the total population.

    The reasons behind the dramatic drop in casualties in 2011 will be familiar to anyone who has followed Odisha's efforts now for Phailin: constant monitoring of weather patterns and warnings, early reviews with and instructions to district authorities, positioning of relief materials and teams well in advance, coordination with the Central government for defence and other agencies' assistance, and most important of all, evacuation of large numbers of vulnerable citizens to safe locations.

    In the past decade, several regional political leaders have turned upside down the old conventional wisdom that anti-incumbency invariably causes ruling parties to lose elections. This has primarily been linked to a corresponding improvement in governance, measured both by widespread acclaim as well as corroborated by socio-economic indicators.

    Odisha has been one of the prime examples of this phenomenon, with a three-time chief minister looking poised to lead his party to yet another electoral victory, going by opinion polls over many months and urban election results a few weeks ago. It should come as no surprise that during this time the state has been making unprecedented progress, as measured by both economic growth, as well as by indicators such as poverty reduction and infant and maternal mortality.

    And there is no question that disaster management is where Odisha has shone. That is something that has been known for some time not only to its citizens but also to experts, and is only now getting widespread national public attention.

    Of course, the efforts and contribution of various other national authorities must also be acknowledged, including the Indian Meteorological Department, the National Disaster Rapid Action Force, and the defence forces, which positioned and kept ready helicopters and other resources for deployment as necessary.

    This experience could well prove to be a turning point. The successful containment of casualties, and the attention and all round kudos that the preparations for Phailin received, have set a high standard for what governmental authorities can do when they apply themselves. Even more importantly, it serves as a benchmark for what citizens throughout the country can, and indeed should, expect of their government.

    But it must be recognised that systemic capability to deal with such disasters is not like a switch that can just be turned on at will. It takes sustained prioritisation and effort. In a sense, Odisha's manner of dealing with this particular crisis is a 14-year-long "overnight success" story.

    Also, much more investment is needed in infrastructure and resources. Countries like Japan, which earned kudos for their management of the so-called triple disaster in 2011, have very sophisticated centralised disaster monitoring and management agencies. Those have round-the-clock real time information from across the country through webcams, helicopters, satellites and weather sensors.

    India needs to further upgrade its monitoring and response capabilities. But the most important upgradation necessary is that of political will.

    The writer is a BJD MP from Odisha in Lok Sabha

    Turning point Phailin - Indian Express
     
  4. kseeker

    kseeker Retired

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    ^^ Met dept, IAF, IN, Coast guards,state gov of orissa and whoever is involved in rescuing life, truly deserves appreciation. Kudos to them.
     
  5. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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  6. kseeker

    kseeker Retired

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    Well said. You are absolutely right Sir.
     
  7. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Cyclone Phailin super relief: The night govt and IMD saved the day

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    A woman stands near a house damaged in cyclone in Haripur village in Gopalpur. (PTI photo)

    The storm has passed. Sunday night, as cyclone Phailin looked set to dissipate within 36 hours, the Orissa government could pat itself in the back for a massive evacuation that helped save thousands of people from India's fiercest cyclone in 14 years.
    The death toll in the state stood at 18, most of them dying under falling trees as winds reaching up to 250 km or more battered Ganjam district and with a lesser force other districts. While over 2.34 lakh houses were damaged, less than 12 hours after the cyclone subsided over 'Ground Zero' Ganjam, over 90 per cent of the roads blocked by fallen trees had been cleared.

    By Sunday evening, Cyclone Phailin had weakened into "deep depression". M Mohapatra, Scientist (Cyclone Warning Division) of the Meteorology Department in Delhi, said the cyclonic storm now had wind speed of 45-55 km ph, and was expected to weaken further.

    Orissa officials attributed the low casualties to record evacuation. In just three days, 9.1 lakh people in 14 districts were evacuated. In Ganjam alone, over 1.82 lakh people were evacuated while another 1.6 lakh rushed to cyclone shelters there on their own ahead of the cyclone.

    Andhra Pradesh also saw one of its biggest evacuation operations, with over 90,000 people shifted from coastal villages of the Srikakulam district to 49 shelters within 30 hours. The shelters had stocks of food and other essential commodities to last a week. All these were in place, along with an officer in charge of each shelter, by 3 pm Saturday, six hours before the cyclone made landfall in neighbouring Orissa. This ensured there were no casualties in the district.

    The Srikakulam administration drew up lists of villages, categorised them as dangerous, very vulnerable and vulnerable, and sent text messages to over 10,000 people a day before the cyclone. The level of planning was such that special officers had details of families, numbers of men, women and children, contact numbers of village elders and elected representatives, besides information about the number of vehicles available for evacuation.

    Adopting a strategy of 'zero loss of life', 247 cyclone shelters were pressed into service in Orissa. However, what made the difference was the 10,000 specially constructed school buildings that housed a major part of the 9,12,848 people who were evacuated from the affected areas. These buildings had been constructed as part of a special plan after the 1999 super cyclone disaster.

    "All resources were put to use. This was the largest-ever evacuation at such short notice. We not only provided food and water to all but a week's supply of both was also kept ready at the shelters," a senior state government fuctionary said. Special rapid action force teams were placed at strategic locations in districts and fuel was stocked.

    Alarm bells started going off in Orissa soon after a low-pressure area formed over the North Andaman Sea last week. As the Meteorological Department forecast that this could develop into a very severe cyclone, with wind speeds reaching up to 185-190 km per hour and make landfall somewhere closer to Gopalpur in Orissa, Chief Secretary Jugal Mohapatra took a meeting of the Ganjam district administration.

    "In 1999, hardly a few thousand were evacuated. We did not have many cyclone shelters then. The Chief Secretary made it clear that, no matter what, vulnerable people have to be evacuated to safer areas to ensure zero casualties," said a Revenue and Disaster Management Department official.

    "Mass evacuation was started on the morning of the 10th and by 11th evening, it had been completed. There was information about a few reluctant people in vulnerable areas, and senior officials were asked to intervene. These people too were shifted to shelters by 12th morning. People were cajoled, persuaded or forced to leave," an official said.

    At Ganjam, the district collector identified all the vulnerable villages and possible cyclone shelters nearby. By Saturday evening, when the cyclone made landfall, over 3.5 lakh people from at least five districts in the scope of the cyclone had moved to shelters.

    In Golabandha village of Ganjam, people were told clearly of the dangers of living within the first 10 km of the coast. "Though people initially resented forced evacuation, now they are thanking us," said a district official.

    "The government did microplanning of the work needed to be done after the cyclone hit. Each department's role was identified and they were given targets to complete. There was no confusion over who was to do what," Ganjam District Collector Dr Krishan Kumar said. All supporting agencies were told to report to the district collector.

    In Berhampur, the IAF started a mobile medical unit two days before the storm. "We were ready with treatment for snake bites to heart attacks and head injuries," said Squadron Leader Navneet Kaur of the team.

    "It was the evacuation before the landfall that helped minimise the casualties," admitted Squadron Leader S P Singh, who was stationed in Berhampur for overseeing the mobile medical units.

    Cyclone Phailin super relief: The night govt and IMD saved the day - Indian Express


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    This is how the efficiency of the States that saved the people..

    It was the excellent foresight to have built schools strong enough to brook any disaster, the coordination and execution by the State Govts and the Administration that saved the day for India.

    The Centre is merely a facilitator.

    And no political party can gloat and take the credit, implied or otherwise.

    The armed Forces and Govt agencies are not the property of any political party. They are the part of the Govt.
     
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2013
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