How India tamed Fani’s fury
Cyclonic Storm Fani was the strongest tropical cyclone which severely affected Odisha and Bengal. Fani originated from a tropical depression that formed west of Sumatra in the Indian Ocean on 26 April. Fani rapidly intensified into an extremely severe cyclonic storm and reached its peak intensity on 2 May.
Here it is important to mention that the India Meteorological Department had already tracked the storm and issued numerous yellow warnings for much of the south-eastern portion of the country when the cyclone started to intensify. In preparation for the storm’s impact, the state government of Odisha evacuated over 1.2 million residents from vulnerable coastal areas and moved them to higher ground and into cyclone shelters built a few miles inland. The authorities deployed around a thousand emergency workers and 43,000 volunteers in these effort. It sent out 2.6 million text messages to warn of the storm in addition to using television, sirens and public-address systems to communicate the message. About 7,000 kitchens were operated to feed evacuees in 9,000 storm shelters.
The Indian Navy readied naval ships and aircraft at Arakkonam and Visakhapatnam air-bases to prepare for the storm’s aftermath and aid in reconnaissance, rescue and relief operations. The Odisha government staged “300 power boats, two helicopters and many chain saws, to cut downed trees” for the purpose.
PM Narendra Modi himself was monitoring the situation in Odisha and Bengal. After the Cyclone, he along with Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik conducted the aerial survey of the cyclone-hit state. PM Modi had announced Rs 381 crore financial assistance earlier for the Odisha and subsequently added that the central government will release additional Rs1000 crore . He had also offered financial assistance to the West Bengal government. But Bengal Chief Minister denied taking any assistance. In this Cyclone, at least 45 people have been killed by Fani; 37 in Odisha. The cyclone adversely affected electricity supply and telecommunication in several coastal areas of Odisha, and to a lesser extent of West Bengal. Puri and Khordha district in Odisha were the worst hit.
One of the most important outcomes after this Cyclone is that India has demonstrated before the world that it can confront any kind of natural calamities. In 1999 Odisha cyclone almost 15,000 people lost their life, but this time the causalities has even not reached to 100.
In 1999, Odisha experienced a severe flood in the august, 1999 affecting six coastal blocks. Next came the severe cyclonic storm on 17-18th October 1999, which hit the coastal district causing widespread and unprecedented damages to life and property. The state was again hit by the most severe super cyclonic storm on 29- 30th Octeber, 1999 that ravaged all the coastal districts in general and Jagatsingpur. Kendrapara, Cuttack, Khurda and Puri in particular. The super storm was followed by torrential rains raging from 447mm to 955mm rainfall from 29th October to 1st November causing very high flood in baitarini, budhabalanga, and salandi river basins, Which severly affected and marooned very vast districts of Jajpur, Bhadrak, Keonjhar, Balasore and Mayurbhanj. At landfall point near paradip coast on 29th October, 199 the wind velocity is estimated to be 270 to 300 Kms. After hitting the paradip coast, the cyclonic storm with tidal wave of 5 to 7 meters height ravaged the coastal districts of Jagatsingpur, Kendrapara, Khurda and Cuttack. The state capital Bhubaneswar and the commercial hub of the state, Cuttack was completely devastated. All surface communications, telecommunications, proper supply and water supply were totally disrupted for more than 48 hours even in the state capital. The country has not witnessed a calamity of such rare severity during the current century. This study contains the status of Early warning system in Orissa and its socio economic impact of cyclone on some of the vulnerable district of the State.
Studies indicate that natural disaster losses equate to up to 2% of India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and up to 12% of Central government revenue. The cyclones that occur between Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn are known as Tropical Cyclones. Tropical cyclones are weather systems in which winds equal or exceed gale force (minimum of 34 knot, i.e., 62 kmph). Indian sub-continent is the worst affected region of the world, having a coast line of 7516 kms. (5400 kms along the mainland, 132 kms in Lakshadweep and 1900 kms in Andaman and Nicobar Islands) is exposed to nearly 10% of the world’s Tropical Cyclones. There are 13 coastal states/UTs encompassing 84 coastal districts which are affected by cyclones (Fig. 1). Four States (Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal) and one UT (Pondicherry) on the East Coast and One State (Gujarat) on the West Coast are more vulnerable to cyclone disasters. 40% of the total population lives within 100 km of coastline. Analysed data for the period 1980-2000 shows that on an average, annually 370 million people are exposed to cyclones in India. Cyclones occur in the month of May-June and October-November, with primary peak in November and secondary peak in May. Although cyclones affect the entire coast of India the East Coast is more prone compared to the West Coast. An analysis of the frequencies of cyclones on the East and West coasts of India during 1891-2000, show that nearly 308 cyclones (out of which 103 were severe) affected the East Coast. During the same period 48 tropical cyclones crossed the West Coast, of which 24 were severe cyclonic storms. Out of the cyclones that develop in the Bay of Bengal, over 58 percent approach and cross the East Coast in October and November. Only 25 % of the cyclones that develop over the Arabian Sea approach the West Coast. In the pre-monsoon season, corresponding figures are 25 percent over Arabian sea and 30 percent over Bay of Bengal. Recurring cyclones account for large number of deaths, loss of livelihood opportunities, loss of public and private property and severe damage to infrastructure, thus seriously reversing the developmental gains at regular intervals. Broad scale assessment of population at risk suggests that an estimated 32 crore people, which accounts for almost third of the country’s total population, are vulnerable to cyclone related hazards. Climate change and its resultant sea-level rises can significantly increase the vulnerability of coastal population.
There are three elements associated with cyclones which cause destruction during its occurrence.
Strong Winds: Cyclones are known to cause severe damage to infrastructure through high speed winds. Very strong winds which accompany a cyclonic storm damages installations, dwellings, communications systems, trees etc., resulting in loss of life and property. Gusts are short but rapid bursts in wind speed are the main cause for damage. Squalls on the other hand, are longer periods of increased wind speed and are generally associated with the bands of thunderstorms that make up the spiral bands around the cyclone.
Torrential rains and inland flooding: Torrential rainfall (more than 30 cm/hour) associated with cyclones is another major cause of damages. Unabated rain gives rise to unprecedented floods. Rain water on top of the storm surge may add to the fury of the storm. Rain is a serious problem for the people which become shelter less due to cyclone. Heavy rainfall from a cyclone is usually spread over wide area and cause large scale soil erosion and weakening of embankments.
Storm Surge: A Storm surge can be defined as an abnormal rise of sea level near the coast caused by a severe tropical cyclone; as a result of which sea water inundates low lying areas of coastal regions drowning human beings and life stock, causes eroding beaches and embankments, destroys vegetation and leads to reduction of soil fertility.
Benefits of Tropical Cyclones: Although Tropical cyclones are known for destruction they cause, when they strike they also bestow certain benefits to the climatic conditions of that area such as Relieve drought conditions. Carry heat and energy away from the tropics and transport it towards temperate latitudes, thus helps to maintain equilibrium in the Earth and maintain a relatively stable and warm temperature worldwide.
Management of Cyclones: There are many structural and non-structural measures for effective disaster management of cyclones. The structural measures include construction of cyclone shelters, construction of cyclone resistant buildings, road links, culverts, bridges, canals, drains, saline embankments, surface water tanks, communication and power transmission networks etc. Non-structural measures like early warning dissemination systems, management of coastal zones, awareness generation and disaster risk management and capacity building of all the stakeholders involved. These measures are being adopted and tackled on State to State basis under National Cyclone Risk Mitigation Project (NCRMP) being implemented through World Bank Assistance.
By Uday India Bureau