A double disaster: On a cyclone amid the coronavirus

  • IASbaba
  • May 22, 2020
  • 0
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Topic: General Studies 1,2,3:

  • Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, cyclone 
  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors 
  • Disaster and disaster management.

A double disaster: On a cyclone amid the coronavirus

Context: Cyclone Amphan, a tropical cyclone formed over Bay of Bengal has affected states of Odisha and West Bengal. At least 72 people are dead and normal life is paralysed for millions in Kolkata and in the rural areas of both the States.

Did You Know?

  • Cyclone Amphan has been named by Thailand.
  • Amphan is the second pre-monsoon cyclone to form in the Bay of Bengal in two years. The first one was Cyclone Fani
  • The pre-monsoon period is generally considered to be unsupportive for the formation of tropical cyclones.

About Cyclones

  • Cyclones are low-pressure systems that form over warm tropical waters, with gale force winds near the centre. 
  • The winds can extend hundreds of kilometres (miles) from the eye of the storm. 
  • Cyclones can unleash catastrophic storm surges — tsunami-like flooding — when they make landfall.
  • The term “storm surge” refers to rising seas whipped up by a storm, creating a wall of water several metres higher than the normal tide level
  • The tropical cyclone season in the Bay of Bengal and neighbouring Arabian Sea has two peaks around May and November, according to the World Meteorological Organisation. 

What has been the response of States during Cyclones?

  • National and State Disaster Response Force units are alerted by weather forecasting agencies through governments
  • A code of practice has been evolved for a storm coming under category 3 and above: (following points will be useful for Ethics Case Studies)
    • Quick evacuations through all routes
    • Arranging for backup power
    • Warning people to stay far from the coasts
    • Designating strong buildings as cyclone shelters
    • Providing for at least a week’s supply of cooked food 
    • Bolstering medical supplies in these temporary shelters
  • Some vital activities such as functioning of the Kolkata airport were restored a day after the cyclone struck, facilitating movement of essentials.

What are the additional challenges associated with Cyclone Amphan?

  • Threat of COVID-19: Thousands of people have been moved to crowded shelters where the COVID-19 pandemic poses a continuing threat. 
  • Administrative Challenges: There are logistical difficulties in adhering to hygienic practices, monitoring those requiring medical assistance and testing for the virus.
  • Livelihoods of migrants: Many who were working in distant States have returned to Odisha and Bengal in the wake of the economic paralysis caused by COVID-19, and thus need sustained support after the storm. 
  • Shelter Challenges: There is also challenge to provide pre-fabricated facilities for safe shelter in outlying areas, such as the Sunderbans
  • Fund Constraints: State governments are facing revenue shortages due to lockdown imposed in the wake of COVID-19. Thus, their ability to rehabilitate lives post cyclone is constrained

Way Ahead

  • Strong support from the Centre, which the State must be provided to help it overcome the double jeopardy of the pandemic and the cyclone. 
  • Using off-the-shelf solutions such as solar power to mobilise communities
  • Decentralised governance for ensuring quick rehabilitation of communities adapting to local needs

Connecting the dots:

  • Indian Monsoon, El-Nino & La-Nina, Indian Ocean Dipole
  • Disaster Management Act, 2005

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