By Soumya Raj:
The Eastern coast of India is all braced up to face the wrath of the Cyclone Phailin, a category 4 cyclone fast approaching the country. Approaching at a staggering speed of 210 km/h, it is a disaster of colossal magnitude, and panic has gripped the coast despite adequate preparations by the National Disaster Relief Force. Phailin literally means “sapphire” in Thai and was named by Thailand.
Over half a million people from Odisha have been evacuated, and it is India’s biggest evacuation operation in 23 years. The Indian Meteorological Department in New Delhi assures that there are sufficient provisions for food, water and power supply in the states where the cyclone is all set to hit. Panic buying of rations was reported; alarmed, the people are all set to be better prepared this time than they were fourteen years back. The cyclone is being closely monitored and frequent updates on Phailin’s speed, location and intensity are being given out through various media, like television, radio and internet. Right now, the weather in Odisha is stormy and rainfalls of up to 50-60cm are expected.
The October of 1999 was the last time such a cyclone of colossal magnitude arrived in India. That cyclone was called Paradwip Cyclone or Cyclone 05B; it hit with a speed of 250 km/h and caused the death of approximately 10,000 people. It was a category 5 cyclone. It’s that time of test again, when nature is all set to unleash her wrath upon us. The time of landfall is expected to be at around 6pm to 8pm today, and is fast approaching the terrestrial area.
As the Cyclone approaches, the people of Jagatsinghpur district in Odisha have a special cause of worry. Around 1.7 laks trees were felled andÂ casuarina, cashew trees and betel vines were removed from villages around the area close to the shores, to make way for theÂ POSCO steel plant about two years ago.Â Casuarinas are evergreen shrubs and trees that grow up to 35m tall, they are highly tolerant of cyclones and are often planted as windbreaks. They acted as natural barriers against strong winds, tidal waves and cyclonic storms. The Odisha government is responsible for the loss of green cover that could have minimized the damage done in the villages surrounding these areas.
A part of disaster management by Google was the voluntary initiative of launching the “People Finder”. The search engine giant has voluntarily come up with the initiative of collecting information regarding people stuck in the disaster affected areas, so that it helps the officials with the data regarding the victims and tracking the magnitude of the damage caused by the Cyclone Phailin. Google is also collaborating with Airtel, to send a mass SMS blast to all the people in the disaster estimated areas informing them when the cyclone hits. Emergency numbers are circulated virally online, and it is suggested that everyone do so in order to spread the word to encourage minimal loss and maximum preparedness. The number one can resort to, for Odisha’s State Emergency Operation Centre is 0674-2534177. Click hereÂ for more helpline numbers of Emergency Centres in OdishaÂ .
A few guidelines for alertness in this time of crisis will be closely monitoring TV and radio for more information. Also, to avoid the spread of false reports that induce unnecessary panic, one should first and foremost rely on official information primarily. Stocking necessary chucks — for instance, dry, storable, edible food and plenty of clean water should be a priority. Items like radio and torch, batteries, and medicines should also be included in the management kit. People in low lying areas near the beaches or coasts should abandon such places immediately and move away. When asked to evacuate, people in the affected areas should make sure to not delay and get on the move as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, as the people in eastern coast, such as Andhra Pradesh and Odisha gear up for their battle against Mother Nature’s wrath, people all over India unite to contribute willingly for relief funds. Beware of appeals that intend to profit rather than aid. You can contribute to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund, the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund for Andhra Pradesh, and the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund for Odisha in order to help those in need and mitigate the impact and the impairment Phailin is all set to bring with herself.
UPDATE: Check out the Google Crisis Response map with all information about emergency centers, shelters and information about missing persons. Click here.