Our state has learned a lot from the 1999 Super Cyclone. We have enhanced our preparedness to face similar cyclones. Now other states of the country are learning about preparedness to face natural calamities from Odisha. Personnel of ODRAF are rushing to other states at the time of need. During recent Amphan cyclone, ODRAF was the savior in adjoining West Bengal.
During the 1999 Super Cyclone, Odisha was least prepared to face such a calamity. The wind velocity of that cyclone was estimated to be 270 kmph to 300 kmph. But there could be no authentic documentation of wind velocity. It was estimated that more than 10,000 people died because of it. But no official documentation could be done regarding the deaths. Odisha in the past had faced similar deadly cyclones. The 1971 cyclone is said to have claimed around 10,000 lives. In 1855, another major cyclone had caused 5,000 deaths on Odisha coast.
It was an eye opener for the State government and Odisha State Disaster Mitigation Authority was established in December 1999. In September 2008 its name was changed to Odisha State Disaster Management Authority.
State government created the Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF) in 2001 to face natural calamities. It was first of its kind organisation in the country. In 2005 State Disaster Management Policy was formulated. Large number of multipurpose cyclone shelters has come up in cyclone and flood prone areas of Odisha to shelter people at the time of need. These have reduced loss of lives during major cyclones that hit Odisha in recent past.
Results show up:
The results showed up when Phailin cyclone had its landfall near Gopalpur in Ganjam district in 2013. Around 10 lakh people could be evacuated to safe places like cyclone shelters. The death toll of this major cyclone was 21. In 2014, the Hudhud cyclone could claim only two lives on Odisha coast.
But every natural calamity is a new learning experience. Titli cyclone that had its landfall in south-west coast of Gopalpur near Palasa in Andhra Pradesh killed as many as 77 people in Odisha. Most deaths did not occur during the cyclone. Heavy rains that accompanied it caused landslides in hilly regions of Gajapati district causing 42 deaths. Following this incident inhabitants of several hamlets in landslide prone regions were rehabilitated in safe places downhill.
Fani cyclone hit Odisha on May 3, 2019 and it had its landfall near Puri. Capital city Bhubaneswar as well as Puri district experienced complete power and communication failure for the first time after the super cyclone. This again provided scope for new learning to prevent such post-disaster scenario.