How India Prevented Catastrophe When It Was Hit by a Massive Storm Last Month

Cyclone Phailin was expected to wreak havoc, but India was ready for it

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Supertyphoon Haiyan may have killed as many as 10,000 people in the central Philippines. A storm of near strength, Cyclone Phailin, hit India’s east coast last month and was expected to cause massive death and destruction. It didn’t. About 50 people died, and while nearly a quarter-million houses and over 860,000 hectares of cropland were destroyed, the damage amounted to about $150 million. Yet, in 1999, a cyclone that struck the same region resulted in more than 10,000 deaths and almost $4.5 billion in damage.

India’s Phailin experience may not be fully relevant to the Philippines — Haiyan was bigger and created an unanticipated, deadly 6-m storm surge that acted like a killer tsunami, and the central Philippines was still recovering from an earlier 7.2-magnitude earthquake. But, in preparing for Phailin, the Indian authorities did what they hadn’t before. They evacuated nearly a million people, some forcefully, to hundreds of new cyclone shelters and some 10,000 sturdy schools and government buildings. Disaster-management personnel were deployed by the hundreds, and the armed forces were put on standby, as were more than 40 aid agencies and charities to help with postdisaster relief. All major officials in the relevant districts were provided with satellite phones to prevent a breakdown in communications.

At the local level, officials in the coastal states of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, which were in Phailin’s path, combined with NGOs to conduct drills for residents to lock up homes, herd cattle to safe places, and carry important documents and sufficient clothing to shelters when disaster alerts were issued. India has also invested in technology — satellites and Doppler radar — to provide early warning. Shelters were built and food and water stored five days ahead of Phailin’s landfall. “Satellite applications combined with good governance can be a very powerful cocktail,” says Susmita Mohanty, CEO of Indian aerospace company Earth2Orbit.

The World Bank praised India for how it dealt with Phailin and the lessons the country has learned from past natural disasters. “Successfully evacuating a million people is not a small task,” it noted in a report. “This has taken years of planning, construction of disaster risk mitigation infrastructure, setting up of evacuation protocols, identification of potential safe buildings to house communities and most importantly, working with communities and community-based local organizations in setting up volunteer teams and local champions who all knew exactly what needed to be done.”

12 comments
B
B

Indians found bread on Mars should take their butter up there.

BansalMishra
BansalMishra

What kind of complex compels you to glorify your achievement comparing it to some ones tragedy of such a horrific scale; rather lending forward a hand to Help.

geens01
geens01

Yep, as expected another Indian shamelessly using this tragedy as an opportunity to boast shamelessly about themselves.  These people know no limits when it comes to bragging.

vaishnavjagdip
vaishnavjagdip

What has saved People of India is  well preparedness, after getting cyclone alert.

Some states had & are proving their 'good governance" 

Ravi
Ravi

@CoreenMagaway : Insensitive ? read your comment again. In any case there are more people raped in US then in India, even though Indian population is 4 times of US. A recent study shown that nearly 50 percent of Australian Women sexually harassed . It looks like only you pick India, at least in India people came to road in your country that never happened . Pity on you.

CoreenMagaway
CoreenMagaway

Say.. how many women are raped in India? Irrelevant i know but that's just to show that both countries have unpleasant things to worry about. The point is that now is not the time to publish articles like this -the purpose may be to simply advise but really at this time, it's more like showboating. Insensitive and offensive.

JuliusCSar
JuliusCSar

Our country is just in the west of--beside--the Pacific Ocean, the largest body of water in the planet. A lot of major typhoons hit our country first before they hit the rest of the world. As they say, Philippines is Taiwan's and Japan's typhoon gauge and warning. Because of this we are so used to typhoons. However we should consider that risk is viewed differently by different people. Like other people whose psychological reaction is to take risk lightly (we can say, to adapt) after constant experience, many of my countrymen who underestimated the super typhoon and soon fell victim of it thought they would be able to handle the immensity of Typhoon Yolanda, as we call it locally.

I've been following the news, and been a witness of how the death toll grew from 3 to more than ten thousand. And quite frankly, I felt a mix of sorrow and disappointment to the victims - they should not have risked their lives by refusing to evacuate and looking after their homes. But this is simply what an outsider would say. What you don't and refused to know (funny as a journalist you did not even researched well) (1) there are not a lot of evacuation centers in the rural areas like Samar, a case in point even the hospitals, schools, City Halls, etc. were destroyed; (2) the government did try to evacuate every people they could, in fact a day or two before the country was hit by the typhoon the President warned the entire country of Typhoon Yolanda on national tv and I daresay that his statement caused an alarm, convincing more people to evacuate; (3) countries are not M&Ms that have different colors, but are M&Ms all the same... what you know and said about this recent tragedy is something you seemed to pull from CNN, which by the way is not the best source in this case.

I am not speaking in defense of my country. I myself believe that the Government lacked a system, and is a failure for not being proactive in risk management when our country is most vulnerable to calamities. However I find this article insensitive and poorly written. First, the article starts by saying Philippines was hit by a super typhoon, then continues with Oh hey we did experience something like that--almost as huge but not quite--a month ago. Then assumes But hey look at what we did, aha aha?! Oh and we got a star for what happened. Seriously - that news is one month late. But why publish it now? Because you want comparison to make this news a hit, and disappointingly at the expense of my country, its people, and our very fresh wound. Second, I get the 2 core messages of this article- that preparation and a good system of dealing with risks save a lot of lives and that we should learn from history. But I have to pop that big bubble on your head - Yolanda is by far the most destructive typhoon we experienced, and yes WE will learn from IT not from you and this stupid article. Our government deals with Filipinos, and yours deals with Indians. The worldview--beliefs, perceptions, priorities, experiences, etc.--is widely distinct. We have barangays, the smallest unit of government, and definitely with this experience our government should mobilize and empower them better. We need this experience to galvanize our nation.

Congratulations, you have done your job in saving the lives of thousands of people. It is really impressive of India and its government. Thank you for mentioning that we just experienced a massive earthquake a month ago. Aftershocks are still felt and recovery is still in progress. Now it is clearer that the catastrophe you experienced a month ago is not even remotely similar from what we just experienced. You pointed that out, very clearly. And that is exactly why this news is one month late. Obviously you intended to tag along with the desolation we are now experiencing for hits. If you could only hear the people, see how they plead for help, how they grieve, you would have thought twice about writing this insensitive article. Writing this news now and with a hint of vainglory????? Yes, I take offense.


SanMan
SanMan

@BansalMishra 

That is not the purpose of the article. India also lost 10,000 lives in its 1999 typhoon disaster. After this, lessons were learned, and infrastructure was built to avoid repeat of the tragedy. Recently when typhoon Phailin hit, the lessons learned and the improved response prevented a repeat of 1999. Likewise, Philippines will benefit from implementing changes that avoid a repeat of the current tragedy.

All poor countries are the same - they only react after a major disaster takes many lives. Philippines is now experiencing the same pain that India got in 1999, and will no doubt implement changes for the future.

SanMan
SanMan

@geens01 

On the contrary, the article was related to how a large deathtoll was avoided by applying certain useful measures. It was not an attempt to make a negative comparison with Philippines, but to show that certain investments can pay off with beneficial results.

SanMan
SanMan

@Ravi  

She is Filipino not American, and she is wrongfully misinterpreting the article as gloating or rubbing salt on Philippines' latest wound during their time of suffering. The point of the article is not to cast Philippines in a negative light, but to share useful lessons that others have learned from past tragedies in order avoid further tragedy in the future. Knowledge must be shared in order to make improvements for the future, and the purpose of that is not about showboating.

SanMan
SanMan

@CoreenMagaway ,

This wasn't about showboating or casting Philippines in a negative light. This was about how certain useful policy approaches had yielded improved results. Lessons have to be learned and shared, to avoid huge tragic loss of life.

BPGCMan
BPGCMan

@JuliusCSar I am sorry if this article offended you but honestly, Its just some journalist with poor journalistic skills and TIME which are responsible for its publishing. I don't think so Indians have a role, yet I see comments attacking Indians ( Not yours but the others ). Guess What ? We care . Just yesterday, We had a donation drive in our locality for victims of Haiyan. We understand the pain. We share it.