The worst of Cyclone Hudhud seems to be over, though it will take weeks to assess the damage it caused in Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. Tens of thousands of people were uprooted from their homes and property worth hundreds of crores of rupees was lost. Though a few lives were lost, it was nothing compared to the Super Cyclone that hit coastal Odisha in 1999 in which 10,000 people and five lakh cattle were believed to have been killed. At that time, the people living in coastal areas of Odisha were taken aback when tidal waves, heavy rains and high-velocity wind hit the coastal areas, almost simultaneously. They had never seen anything like that in their lives.
By the time they realised the enormity of the tragedy, thousands had been swept away by the sea. This time the meteorological department was able not only to predict the cyclone but also give constant warnings about its progress. Millions of people could shift to safer areas with their personal belongings. The availability of the Internet, mobile phones and the social media also played a major role in the evacuation of people from low-lying areas. The cyclone shelters, built in areas hit by the Super Cyclone, also helped. Last time, too, accurate prediction helped millions to save themselves from the fury of Cyclone Phailin. All this redounds to the credit of the met department.
That the Indian Ocean is a hot spot of cyclone is too well-known to need recapitulation. Out of the 35 deadliest storms recorded in history, 27 had come through the Bay of Bengal landing either in Southeastern India or Bangladesh. The government’s emphasis should be on rehabilitating the people. There is also a need to refine the process of prediction of cyclones and to beef up the disaster preparedness. Though the cyclone has receded, there are chances of heavy rains continuing for some more time. The central and state governments should join hands to put in place a system that can routinely handle such natural calamities with least inconvenience to people.