DISASTER MANAGEMENT : A CASE STUDY
OF SUPER CYCLONE IN ORISSA
Managing Director, APDDCF
(Formerly, Commissioner for Relief,
Government of A.P.)
1. INTRODUCTION :
The Super-cyclone that hit Orissa coast on 29th/30th October 1999, ranks as one
of the worst natural calamities in the recent times. The sheer intensity of the
disaster and the extent of the damage caused and enormity of human suffering
did indeed pose an unprecedented challenge to the administration for mounting
relief operations. Unfortunately, the State headquarters itself came under the
eye of the storm and the Crisis Management Group, which would have
ordinarily taken charge in a situation, such as this, found itself if total disarray,
at least in the initial periods.
Responding to the challenges of relief operations in the neighbouring
State, the Government of Andhra Pradesh decided to dispatch immediate help
and as the former Relief Commissioner of the State, and as a native of Orissa,
became the natural choice for coordinating the relief Commissioner of the State,
and as a native of Orissa, became the natural choice for coordinating the relief
activities for AP.
The Super-cyclone in Orissa and the way the administration responded to the
challenge throws up significant aspects of the Disaster Management from which
lessons need to be drawn for the future. I would attempt to briefly spell-out
some of these significant lessons drawing on my personal experience as well the
Disaster Management drill in operation in the State of Andhra Pradesh.
2. DESCRIPTION OF THE DISASTER :
Before describing the extent of the disaster, it would be in order to define
different categories of cyclone, as per the meteorological classifications adopted
by IMD (Indian Meteorological Department).
Description Wind speeds in KNOTS/KMPH
Cyclonic storm 34-47/63-88
Severe cyclonic storm 48-63/89-117
Very severe cyclonic storm 64-119/118-221
Super cyclonic storm 120 and above/222 and
The Super-cyclone of Orissa, which struck on 29th of October 1999,
came at a time when many Coastal Districts of the State were barely recovering from a
previous cyclone, which hit on the 17th October, 1999. By the sheer enormity of the
disaster, as indicated below, this calamity was one of the worst in the recent memories :
Wind speed of 260 KMPH
Tidal wave over 25 feet
Badly affected : 12 Districts including State capital
Population affected : 10 million (one third of Orissa)
Most fertile & prosperous coastal districts badly affected.
3. DISASTER PREPAREDNESS – PRE-DISASTER
There is an interesting saying, often heard among the armed forces, which runs like
“We have to sweat in peace-time, so as to avoid bleeding during war”.
This in a way, sums up the quintessence of the need for the disaster
preparedness and the role of administration therein. The key areas that needs special
attention, in this regard, and where the administration failed to evince timely
response in Orissa, is a follows :
Dissemination of warning : Early warning systems
Disaster Management System
Preparedness drill – Dry runs.
4. POST DISASTER RESPONSE :
While one cannot avoid the natural disaster, by a well-planned disaster preparedness
and co-ordinated post-disaster response, sufferings of the victims of the natural disaster
can be mitigated to a large extent. Important tasks regarding immediate relief and relief
rehabilitation are in the following areas :
a) Immediate Relief :
o Quick assessment of damage and task on hand.
o Rescue operations air-lifting
o Air dropping of food to marooned
o Communication network
b) Relief and Rehabilitation
Co-ordination the key input in relief operation
o Timely distribution of relief
o Relief delayed is relief deemed
o Restoration of road links
o Restoration of power supply and Telecom
o Health & Sanitation – Deployment of Medical Teams
o Enumeration of affected families
o Networking of NGOs
5. RESTORATION AND LONG-TERM MEASURES
After the immediate relief and rehabilitation work is completed, the
administration has to take up the task of restoration and planning of long-term
measures for hazard mitigation. Among others, the activities which can be taken
in this regard are :
Construction of cyclone shelters
Cyclone – Proofing of houses and Power Supply Systems as far as possible.
(Example, World Bank aided Cyclone Emergency Reconstruction Programme
(CERP) in Andhra Pradesh 1992-94, Hazard Mitigation Project of AP).
6. SUPER-CYCLONE IN ORISSA – RESPONSE OF A.P.
Immediately after super-cyclone hit Orissa on 29-10-99, the Chief Ministers of
AP convened a high level meeting at his residence and instructed the Departments
concerned particularly, Roads & Buildings, AP TRANSCO, Police, Health etc., to
keep ready the men and material for Roads clearance, restoration of power and relief
to the affected people on a war footing, Modalities were worked out in the meeting
held by the Chief Secretary for different Departments for organizing relief,
restoration of power and communications etc. Accordingly, I was deputed to
coordinate relief and I reached Berhampur on 31.10.1999 and set up a Control to
coordinate the activities of different Departments of Government of Andhra Pradesh
in providing relief to Orissa. I visited Bhubaneswar on 01.11.1999 and met the
Chief Minister, Chief Secretary and Relief Commissioner of Orissa Statee. I
coordinated the relief activity and returned to Hyderabad on 6.11.1999.
Director General of Police sent 100 men with Sri J. Purnachander Rao,
Superintendent of Police, Srikakulam. Sri Rao reached Bhubaneswar and established
high-frequency communication. He camped at District Police Office of Superintendent
of Police, Bhubaneswar. He regulated traffic from Khurda road to Bhubaneswar and
then to Cuttack. He worked in coordination with the S.P. Bhubaneswar and Home
Secretary, Orissa. The D.G. of Police also visited Bhubaneswar on 1.11.1999 and
offered all help. A satellite phone was given to the Chief Minister of Orissa by the
D.G.P. on the instructions of Chief Minister. Government of India was requested to
send 5 companies of CRPF/BSF with ration including LPG stoves for 2 weeks.
Following relief measures were undertaken by different departments of A.P.
1. One company of 5th Battalion, A.P.S.P. consisting of 92 personnel deployed
2. One company of 3rd A.P.S.P. consisting of 90 personnel deployed at Cuttack.
3. One company of 6th Battalion, A.P.S.P. consisting of 93 personnel deployed
4. Communication Staff consisting of 34 personnel deployed in Orissa State.
5. Officers and other ranks of Srikakulam district force consisting of 121
personnel deployed in Orissa state.
6. One company of 4th Battalion consisting of 82 personnel deployed for
protection of food grains, security at Airport and other emergency duties at
7. One platoon and one section of 5th Battalion, A.P.S.P. consisting of 30
personnel deployed at Kalinga Stadium, Bhubaneswar, returned to their
Battalion Headquarters on 8.11.99.
Thus 512 personnel of AP Police performed their duties of escorting and
distributing of relief materials at Paradeep, Cuttack and other places in
Orissa. They were provided with search lights/torch lights and other rescue
related material and vehicles including 12 long distance high frequency
communication equipment and 129 local communication hand sets.
8 Ham sets from the coastal districts along with operators were deputed
to establish initial communication in the worst affected areas in consultation
with Orissa authorities. The Government of Orissa commended the services
rendered by the Ham Radio Operators who played vital role in helping the
Relief Commissioner (Orissa) to establish communications with field level
officers on Relief Duty in the most critical time soon after the cyclone
The following medical officers/Para-medical officers who were deputed,
helped Orissa Govt. in providing necessary Medical Aid to the cyclone
victims in a big way :
1. No. of Medical Officers deputed 102
2. No. of Paramedical Staff deputed 144
3. No. of Drivers deputed. 22
The A.P. Transco deployed he following personnel for restoration of power:
1. Number of teams 65
2. Number of persons 808
3. Number of vehicles 45
The roads and buildings Dept. also played a crucial role in restoring
Road Communication, which helped to facilitate relief operations.
30 Road Clearing Teams were deputed to Orissa. The approximate cost
of these operations for about 10 days is about Rs.45.00 lakh @ lakh per day.
Civil Supplies Dept. procured and dispatched over 1000 Mts. Of food
stuff and relief measures to Orissa in co-ordination with the District Collectors,
APDDC Federation etc. for providing immediate relief.
8. CONCLUSION :
LESSONS FROM THE SUPER CYCLONE IN ORISSA
Based on the experience of super-cyclone in Orissa and the parameters
of Disaster Management as indicated above, the following important lessons
may be drawn for the future :
An unprecedented disaster calls for mounting of relief
operations on an unprecedented scale.
A core disaster management group at State and District
levels is required for this.
Reduction of response – time.
Time is the essence and spells the difference between life
Need for a national policy on disaster management.
Sharing of experience and expertise from different States
There is a growing awareness that disaster management should
not be treated as an adhoc/interim administrative response, but should be
integrated in the Planning process itself. This was the message of the
UN Decade for Natural Disaster Mitigation, which is coming to an end
during this year. Sooner we learn the significance of this, the better it
would be for evolving a coordinated administrative strategy for Disaster