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How to Face a Cyclone Head On, Odisha’s Gajapati District Shows by Example

As cyclone Asani moves towards Odisha, the districts gear up to face all eventualities. IAS officer Lingraj Panda, the DM of the Gajapati district, has taken all steps to handle any untoward incidents. He has formed special teams that are taking care of the people living near the coastal region.
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For the last three years, Odisha has been facing summer cyclones consecutively – Yaas in 2021, Amphan in 2020, and Fani in 2019. All these cyclones impacted lives and properties in the state and left behind a trail of destruction. This is why, when the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) predicted another cyclone in May this year, the state government immediately acted upon it and ordered the collectors of 18 districts to start taking measures beforehand to be better prepared.

In an exclusive conversation with Indian Masterminds, the DM of Gajapati, Mr. Lingraj Panda, shared details about their plan and preparedness for cyclone Asani’s landfall. 

Cyclone Asani

CYCLONE ASANI

Gajapati is the second-highest point in the Eastern Ghats with a majority of the district lying in the hills. The problem point in the district is that just 30 kilometers from the coastal line, there is a steep elevation in the land due to its terrain.

Winds intensify between the mountains resulting in the immediate precipitation of rain clouds. Winds from the cyclone have very high chances of destroying anything that comes between them, thus making the entire district even more vulnerable.

“We have identified around 22 points that are vulnerable to extreme winds and landslides due to rainfall. We have stationed officers from block levels at these points. They have already contacted the population and asked them to move to our cyclone shelters,” Mr. Panda said.

Teams reaching their stations

FORMING TEAMS

Gajapati has seven blocks and two municipal areas where experienced senior officers of ADM and SDM levels are stationed who will guide younger officials. The Special Relief Commissioner (SRC) has also rushed an Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF) team to the district which will be stationed at vulnerable spots. 

“ODRAF team is split into two parts – one of it comprises of people expert in rescuing within the water and the other is expert in mountain rescue. We have made specific teams for the 22 vulnerable spots which comprise of fire officials, rural development workers, tree cutting and JCB experts, and electricity officials to take care of power outage or pole falling, etc,” Mr. Panda said.

Connection with each other through virtual meetings

PREPARING FOR THE WORST

Mr. Panda and his team are also keeping rations ready to be dispersed to the areas where people might have to move out of their homes. He has also arranged for properly cooked meals instead of packaged ones for the people in the shelters. Further, he has made arrangements for an adequate supply of water and medicines. 

“Right now, the situation seems to be under control. The weather is pleasant and not bad. We hope it stays the same and the cyclonic storm passes away quickly. Given the pattern of cyclones, as long as there is some form of dissipation 2-3 days before the cyclone hits, then its energy gets dissipated, and it doesn’t cause much damage. I hope that happens with Cyclone Asani too,” said Mr. Panda.

Inspection by the officials

EMERGENCY NUMBERS

Both at the district and block levels, emergency numbers are in operation 24×7, where people can call to report their grievances and for rescue. The officials have been staying awake the entire night following the cyclone and its patterns along with the coast guard and naval teams.

“They contact us every two hours and keep us updated about the passing of the cyclone,” the officer shared.

According to IMD’s prediction, a low-pressure area was formed in south Andaman and the south-east Bay of Bengal which was expected to intensify. It moved in the northwest direction and became a cyclonic storm by the evening of 8 May. However, according to reports, Asani weakened into a deep depression on its way and as such was not expected to make landfall in Odisha. But the state was still expected to receive heavy rainfall, much heavier than usual, and the administration braced itself for it. 


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