India sets example ahead of World Conference
By Andy McElroy
INCHEON, 14 October 2014 – India has again emerged as a global example of early warning, early action with the timely evacuation of up to 400,000 people ahead of Cyclone Hudhud.
India’s strong track record of converting past lessons into better preparedness provides an important reference as global consultations progress to forge a post-2015 framework for disaster risk reduction at the Third UN World Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan, in five months.
Margareta Wahlström, head of UNISDR, said: “India has demonstrated again to the world that if you set the bar high for reducing your exposure to risk then you will save many lives and reduce your economic losses. Cyclone Hudhud was just as great a threat as last year’s cyclone Phailin to a densely populated coastline.”
She praised the work done by the State Governments of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha, the National Disaster Management Authority, the Indian Meteorological Department and the Indian National Coastal, Ocean Information Systems (INCOIS).
“India’s journey from the loss of 10,000 people in the Odisha super cyclone of 1999 to today’s relatively lwo dath rolls from similar events demonstrates the value of agreeing on global priorities for reducing disaster risk,” Ms. Wahlström added.
Cyclone Hudhud generated winds of up to 200km per hour and storm surges of two metres as it pounded coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha. A government statement (14 October) in New Delhi said that 17 people had lost their lives, 14 of them in Andhra Pradesh and three in Odisha.
The Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited cyclone-affected parts of Andra Pradesh today to survey the damage. Electricity and water supplies have been disrupted. A reported 600,000 are in government relief camps.
The Hindustan Times praised advance risk reduction efforts with the relatively low casualties “pointing to the progress technology and state preparedness has made since calamities like the tidal wave in 1977 in Krishna district and storm flood of Godavari districts in 1996 claimed thousands of lives”.
As Hudhud neared Visakhapatnam, where it made landfall, cranes and bulldozers worked to clear fallen trees to facilitate the evacuation. Police and National Disaster Response Force members ushered people to safety.
The newspaper said that Odisha followed up its remarkable evacuation of one million people before the arrival of Cyclone Phailin last year, and moved 156,000 people to cyclone shelters. Ganjam, which was worst hit by Phailin, evacuated about 24,000 people.
“Apart from deployment of forces in advance for rescue and rehabilitation, governments are now focusing more on safety and precaution measures,” the Hindustan Times said. “A day before landfall, district administration officials in Andhra were seen, along the coast and sea shore villages, moving the usually reluctant villagers to the safety of cyclone shelters.”
The Press Trust of India reported from the seaside Kendrapara and Jagatsinghpur districts, in Odisha, where 900 people were killed in the 1999 super cyclone. “People threw caution to the winds and exposed themselves to marauding tidal waves. They paid a heavy price for that but now things are different,” fisherman Sandhakuda Ramamurthy told the news agency.
Haripad Bhuyan, of Ambiki village said the 1999 disaster had taught people “the lesson not to ignore the weather warnings” and that fishing boats no longer set out when a depression or storm is forecast.
Ms. Wahlström met the Chief Minister of Odisha, Naveen Patnaik, last year after the State’s actions in limiting the number of deaths directly caused by the cyclone to 21.
“The State Government’s fast response was remarkable. It was a fantastic achievement; they did excellent work. Odisha’s handling of the very severe cyclone will be a landmark success story in disaster management,” said Ms. Wahlström, after presenting a citation to Chief Minister Patnaik to recognise the State Government’s achievement.
Meanwhile, Typhoon Vongfong has continued to hit Japan. Winds of up to 180kmh have been recorded as the storm moved from Okinawa, where 30 people were injured, to Kyushu. Local authorities issued evacuation advisories to more than 440,000 residents mainly in southwestern Japan.
The Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction will be held in Sendai, Japan, in March 2015. More than 8,000 people – including Heads of State, Ministers, CEOs as well as representatives from civil society, science and academia – are due to attend.