Reports

The Fall of Yaas

'Yaas' might have been a Very Severe Cyclonic Storm, but it had not known the preparedness and resilience of Odisha.

As accurately stated by the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), the landfall process of Extremely Severe Cyclonic Storm Yaas commenced at 9.00 hrs in the morning at Bahanaga Coast, north of Dhamra and south of the Balasore district of Odisha, with winds raging upto 140 kmph. But ahead of the same, the state’s internationally lauded disaster response system had kicked into action.

With the swiftness allegoric of a state adept in dealing with oceanic storms every year, the administration of Odisha had successfully evacuated over 7 lakh people from coastal areas by Tuesday evening. Almost 7000 cyclone shelters were identified and sanitised for the purpose. According to official statements, keeping the sensitivity of the situation in mind, all Covid appropriate protocols were also adhered to during this process.

The very accomplished Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF) was joined by teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) for rescue and restoration operations as well. With the 52 teams of the NDRF, the total number of response teams deployed in the state stood at 404 as 60 teams of the ODRAF, 206 of Odisha Fire Services and 86 wood clearance teams of the Forest and Environment Department were pre-positioned.

The cyclonic storm’s landfall process began at around 9.00 hrs with winds wreaking havoc through Balasore and Bhadrak and tidal waves along the east coast rising upto 4 metres. While the said two districts had witnessed wind speeds of over 130 kmph, the district of Mayurbhanj had also recorded around 100 kmph of gusts. Districts in the north coastal and surrounding region of the state were being lashed by conventional rains since as early as morning of 25th and over 280 mm of rainfall had already been recorded at Chandabali of Bhadrak district by the time landfall commenced.

By 10.30 hrs, the system was crossing the coast near Bahanaga at a speed of 14 kmph and the landfall process reached its completion at 13.30 hrs. Under the influence of high vertical wind shear over the region and weaker outflow in the upper levels, Yaas had weakened into a cyclonic storm by 17.30 hrs. The storm had further weakened into a deep depression by the time it entered Jharkhand after midnight of the 26th. As of Thursday morning, 9 districts of Odisha including Balasore were still under red warning for extremely heavy rainfall and a gale of 60 kmph prevailed over the entire northern half of the state.

The winds on their own did not cause as much damage as the rains did. Extreme rain and high tides have inundated a number of towns along with numerous villages. In fact, even though chances of flood were ruled out, the Budhabalanga, Subarnarekha and their triburtaries are still keeping officials awake as both seem to be in a spate with rain still whipping Mayurbhanj. Flash floods and water logging situations have also led to restless nights in many parts of the state including hilly areas of Similipal, where the highest 515 mm of rainfall was recorded, and Nilagiri. Several rivers including Baitarani, Salandi and Kani are above danger marks as well. Chief Minister Shri Naveen Patnaik, after a primary review of the aftermath, has announced a 7 day relief for the families of all villages marooned due to the storm.

Appreciably, the rescue teams were seen working in full swing even as the cyclone continued to rage.

With the ODRAF, Fire Services and other personnel working diligently towards early restoration, many major roads were cleared of fallen trees in real time. The administration had also ensured safe birth of over 750 babies as expectant mothers from cyclone shelters and rural areas were immediately shifted to nearest hospitals. The efficiency of the entire response force has also made sure that an almost zero casualty is achieved, as only three deaths were reported from Balasore, Mayurbhanj and Kendujhar respectively. Kudos to the Work Department, the East Coast Railway and the Biju Patnaik International Airport had already resumed operations according to normal schedules by evening of the very day. And even though Yaas has already moved past, the response forces still continue to stand bravely with areas being thrashed by rain.

Odisha’s Special Relief Commissioner (SRC) Pradeep Jena has also stated that damage to electrical and telecom infrastructure is expected to be fully restored by the 27th of May. CM Shri Patnaik also promised the same in his message to the public later on. The CM has also conducted an aerial survey of worst hit areas on the 27th and may soon announce compensations. He has also asked for damage reports from district administrations at the earliest. Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has also conducted aerial surveys of affected areas and held several crucial meetings with state administration at Bhubaneswar, on the 28th, before heading towards West Bengal.

Notably, even amid the storm, the Odisha Police had ensured smooth movement of medical oxygen as 4 oxygen tankers were transported to Hyderabad and Vishakhapatnam along with several other intra-state transports.

In West Bengal as well, over 11.5 lakh people were moved to cyclone shelters by the Bengal Police with the help of civil defence and the 45 NDRF teams stationed at different parts of the state. The storm had left Digha along with several other regions of the state submerged but the Indian Defence Forces have ensured minimum loss of lives, as not more than three death were reported in the state. Kolkata’s Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Airport had also resumed operations by early evening of Wednesday. Also, after her real time monitoring of the cyclone from Nabanna, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has announced that she will be visiting affected areas of Purba Medinipur, North and South 24 Parganas on the 28th.

Be it the 1999 Super Cyclone or Extremely Severe Cyclonic Storm Fani, each and every storm has left Odisha more able in battling oceanic disasters. This very preparedness and prompt actions have raised the Odisha Model of disaster response to an international level. Yet after all this, the role of two Odia heroes, IMD’s Director General Shri Mrutyunjay Mohapatra and NDRF’s DG Shri Satyanarayan Pradhan along with Director of Bhubaneswar Meteorological Science Centre Shri HR Biswas is to be credited.

Interestingly, a white flag was seen fluttering atop Puri’s Shri Jagannath Dham on Wednesday, which according to the temple Sevayats is a symbol of oncoming heavy rains. At the same time, Yaas was one of the only cyclones that were not able to carry away the Patita Pabana flag with their winds. Whether one believes in such subtle gestures of fortune or the very evident success of the response forces, the fact that it was Shri Jagannath’s grace that protected Odisha along with the entire east coast, remains irrefutable.

DISCLAIMER: This article reflects author’s view point. Goa Chronicle may or may not subscribe to views of the author

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