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The Generosity of A Storm

Heavy downpour, water logging and crop damage; yet 'Jawad' lived up to its name.

Putting an end to all kinds of speculations and rumours, when Director General of Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) Shri Mrutyunjay Mohapatra had affirmed the formation of a low pressure area over South Thailand that was likely to concentrate into a depression over the adjoining east-central Bay of Bengal by 3rd December and further intensify into a cyclonic storm in the subsequent 24 hours, Odisha had been left stunned over the prospect of a cyclone in the harvest month of December.

Further clarifying, the Director of Bhubaneswar Meteorological Centre Shri HR Biswas had stated, on 2nd December, that the coastline and neighbourhood would be experiencing showers from as early as 3rd December under the storm’s influence. Citing rough atmospheric conditions over the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea, with wind speeds touching 60 kmph at the very least, fisher folk had also been advised not to veer into the waters from 3rd to 5th December. On the very day, the IMD’s further bulletins predicted that once the cyclone intensifies, it will make landfall at Puri and will bring heavy to very heavy rainfall all over the state along with winds gusting to 110 kmph!

Ironically, this storm that threatened to ruin the entire year-long penance of coastal farmers was named ‘Jawad’, meaning ‘generous’, as suggested by Saudi Arabia. Farmers across the state, who were already struggling to recover from the impact of the Very Severe Cyclonic Storm Yaas and the following unseasonal rains, had to resort to early harvest of paddy. Some even had to sell their produce to Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh at lower price, owing to lack of proper storage facilities.

Yet, there’s only much a cyclone could do to a state graced by Mahaprabhu Jagannath Himself; a state adept at facing oceanic storms multiple times each year.

Although unprepared for this unseasonal cyclone, district administrations in the state had made elaborate arrangements to ensure minimal damage to crop stocks. Besides, the administration had also taken every other measure possible to protect lives and livelihoods with the swiftness allegoric to a state finely accomplished in dealing with such storms.

By early morning of the 4th, district administrations along with the highly proficient Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF) and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) had evacuated over 1500 people from low lying coastal areas, and even successfully hospitalised 300 expectant mothers, all while heavy rain lashed at them. As per information provided by Special Relief Commissioner (SRC) Shri Pradeep Kumar Jena, with the 64 teams of the NDRF, the total number of response teams deployed in the state stood at 247.

In Andhra Pradesh, 11 NDRF, 5 SDRF, 6 Coast Guard and 1 Marine Police teams had been put on standby. Additionally, around 54,000 people had been evacuated from vulnerable areas of Vishakhapatnam, Vizianagaram and Srikakulam. Disaster response forces had been deployed in parts of West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Andaman & Nicobar Islands as well.

As proactive measures, 170 trains had been cancelled on the 3rd, 4th and 5th December by the Indian Railways. The University Grants Commission-National Eligibility Test (UGC-NET) and entrance exam of the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT) that were scheduled for Sunday had also been postponed in several centres of Odisha, Andhra and West Bengal. Schools in 19 districts of Odisha had been announced closed as well.

But strangely enough, even though the storm’s movement had reduced to a scary 4 kmph, it gradually started weakening! In fact, as projected in the newest forecast of the IMD, post recurve towards North-East, the cyclone weakened and took the form of a deep depression towards evening of the 4th. By the time it skirted the coast near Puri during noon of the next day, Jawad had reduced to a depression and only 50-60 kmph winds were recorded.

Although the coasts were spared of the cyclonic storm, under the influence of its remnants, Odisha along with Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal did witness heavy rainfall along with major damage to harvests. By the time the depression crossed Odisha, Port town Paradip had witnessed the highest rainfall at over 210 mm. With the Bhubaneswar-Cuttack twin city having witnessed around 50 mm rainfall, the Junior World Cup Hockey being held at Kalinga stadium was put on hold as well. At the same time, the Konarka Festival and International Sand Art Festival also had to be called off.

As stated by SRC Shri Pradeep Jena, damage assessment reports are to be submitted by district administrations within the week, after which the government will review need for compensation and relief as and where required.

Several districts of Odisha and parts of West Bengal are still under orange alert as skies continue to pour. But despite all hardships, for a state that has valiantly countered even Super Cyclonic Storms, Jawad did indeed prove generous. And above all, as long as Shri Jagannath continues to shower His blessings on this land, Odisha shall remain strong in the face of all adversities to come!

 

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