A severe cyclone has battered India’s west coast in recent days. The most powerful cyclone in the Arabian Sea in decades, Cyclone Tauktae has claimed lives, destroyed infrastructure and laid waste crops as it raced from Kerala to Gujarat. Over the weekend, scores of lives were lost in the southern states, including eight in Karnataka. Cyclone Tauktae has hit India at a time when the country is already struggling to deal with the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. Several Covid-19 centres had to be evacuated. The cyclone has weakened India’s already limited health infrastructure. With lakhs of people being packed into relief centres, the danger of coronavirus infections spreading among them looms. Uprooted trees have hampered transport of oxygen and medical equipment. These must be cleared immediately. The last year cyclone Amphan had also made landfall amid first wave of corona virus. The cyclone Taukte has once again put the question mark over preparedness of India to deal with disasters . The states of west coast of India has been impacted severly from the disaster. The most important thing to note here is that states affected with this cyclone were also the most affected states from corona pandemic. Nevertheless, the preparedness and response to Cyclone Taukte have revealed that India need to revamp its protection measures and early warning system.
In the past, similar tropical cyclones caused many thousands of deaths. In the current scenario when the hospitals of India are already flooded and people are facing the ire of pandemic the early warning system becomes a dire necessity. India due to its large population is always at the brink of such kind of havoc wreaked by nature. The people belonging to the poor and vulnerable section of the society have to face the wrath of nature. The effective early warning system will not only save millions of lives from these natural disasters but also save several other valuable infrastructure that cost millions of money to state and central government.
India is already in the clutches of second wave of pandemic and Lockdowns and travel restrictions complicated the response and evacuation process. Furthermore, the cyclone struck densely populated low-lying coastal areas of west coast states where cyclone shelters, community buildings and schools typically used as the evacuation centres had been converted into quarantine facilities. Many of these centres were also housing immigrant populations, who were undergoing mandatory quarantine processes after arriving from different cities and states during the lockdown periods. The challenge was to protect the vulnerable people within emergency shelters, from Cyclone as well as COVID-19.
Even as India begins to assess the damage done by Cyclone Tauktae, another cyclone is churning the seas. Cyclone Yaas is gathering pace in the Bay of Bengal and is expected to strike India’s east coast by end-May. In a little over a week, the monsoons will make their advance along the west coast. Is India prepared to deal with this combined fury? Covid centres along the coast should be moved further inland. More buildings need to be converted into relief centres so that there is no crowding. We need to prepare for the outbreak of water-borne diseases and epidemics, too.
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