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Combating nature's fury

Combating natures fury

The deadliest cyclone to affect India in recent times was two decades ago which hit Orissa's capital city Bhubaneswar with a wind speed of over 250 kmph on October 29, 1999. The mighty cyclone caused a storm surge of up to 8 meters onto the coast and torrential rains that followed leading to extensive flooding, killing around 9,658 people. And here's Fani — the strongest storm in India in two decades, which has hit Odisha on Friday morning and has started making its impact felt. Strong winds swept through Bhubaneswar and the temple town of Puri which also witnessed heavy rain. In the past 30 years, only four extremely severe cyclonic storms have made landfall on Odisha and the Bengal coast. If Fani maintains the intensity as has been predicted by the IMD, it might be the fifth. The cyclone might turn out to be the strongest to hit the eastern coast since 'Hudhud' that made landfall on the east coast near Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh killing around 100 people and causing damage worth 21,000 crores to that state alone. So, how is the preparedness to combat Fani? The cyclone is being continuously monitored ever since it developed near Sri Lanka and repeated warnings have been issued for the past one week. After every few hours, alerts have been issued for the fishermen and people living in coastal regions and massive emergency preparedness has been put in place. Odisha government has moved over 11 lakh people, including at least 542 pregnant women, to safety in the last 24 hours and advised the public to remain indoors. More than three lakh people have been evacuated from Ganjam district alone and 1.3 lakh from Puri. About 5,000 kitchens are operating to serve people in shelters. Relief commissioners and District Collectors are leading the operations on the ground. Trucks are ready with relief material, including essential supplies such as food, drinking water and medicines. Chief Minister of Odisha Naveen Patnaik is personally monitoring the situation. Trains and flights have been cancelled. Around 900 cyclone shelters have been set up in Odisha to house the evacuees. Adequate preparations to ensure the maintenance of essential services such as power, telecommunications in the event of damages have also been made. Railways, Civil Aviation and Shipping Ministries have been advised to review their preparedness well in time and ensure the quick resumption of their services in the event of any disruption. The Indian Coast Guard and the Navy have deployed ships and helicopters for relief and rescue operations. Army and Air Force units in the three states have also been put on stand-by. Nevertheless, Fani is strong because of the route it has adopted and has been termed as an "extremely severe cyclone". Fani originated very close to the Equator and has spent a lot of time over the sea that has helped it to gather more moist air from the warm sea which has added to its heft. Over the years, India has learnt to prepare well for such calamities. Especially after 'Phailin' that swept through Odisha in 2013, the then head of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction lauded the state's efforts and called it a "landmark success." Just hope this 'Fani' (pronounced as 'Foni') as the name has been suggested by Bangladesh which roughly means the hood of a snake, is just not too powerful to trample the spirit of those millions who have woken up to the impending calamity today.

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