Has Odisha bested the US in managing Hurricane Fani?

After the massive hit of 1999, when the state suffered over 10,000 fatalities from a super cyclone, the response to Cyclone Fani has been exemplary in terms of limiting human lives lost. However, the big test comes now.

Hurricane Maria, a close if slightly worse version of Cyclone Fani, stuck Peurto Rico, a US ‘territory’ in 2017, claimed over 3000 lives, based on the final count that came in months after the event. Almost two years after the cyclone hit Peurto Rico, the ‘territory’, and many views in the US remain divided on what has been done since then.
Hurricane Fani, on the other hand, from all possible indications, has been limited to well under 50 in Odisha. Does that mean Odisha, and by extension, India, has outdone the US in managing a category 4 cyclone? In fact, even the 2013 Cyclone Phailin which had caused close to 50 deaths, was an occasion to congratulate the Odisha chief minister by many agencies globally.

Going by the international pats coming in, the answer would be a qualified yes. Not only have fatalities been largely avoided, but the evacuation, the shelters and disaster response systems have functioned, as they were supposed to.

But in the aftermath of Fani, it is perhaps time to consider the task ahead. Relief and rehabilitation. Relief in the form of immediate relief for the people in cyclone shelters, who will need all the support they can get in terms of food and other supplies. Beyond this immediate relief will be the need to repair and get the damaged infrastructure and services running again, be it power, drinking water or transport.  In this, India has an opportunity to best the US once again, where Peurto Rico has seen the largest immigration out of the island after the cyclone, thanks to tardy relief and repair work.
In Odisha’s case, the sad truth is, the state has a patchy record when it comes to relief and rehabilitation. Perhaps it is the widespread poverty in the state , or perhaps it is just business as usual after the rush of a critical short term objective. But even today, we see, and hear stories of survivors of the 1999 super cyclone who are still nursing the impact their lives and livelihoods took from the damage it caused.
One sincerely hopes that the state and central administrations are able to set aside differences, and make a real difference to  their approach and impact, on the cyclone hit, as they put back the pieces left behind by Cyclone Fani. A good effort, seen even one year from now, will do far more to establish the country’s improving credibility  in managing its biggest challenges adequately, than any amount of one off achievements.

To contribute to the Chief Minister’s relief Fund for Odisha, do follow this link to the Chief Ministers Relief Fund. https://cmrfodisha.gov.in/  Paytm has also enabled a link where you can donate any amount, conveniently.

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Prasanna Singh

Prasanna Singh

Prasanna Singh is the founder at IamRenew

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