Thiruvananthapuram: Both Kerala and Tamil Nadu got the same alert from the India Meteorological Department (IMD). The alert that came at 12.30pm on November 29, a day before Cyclone Ockhi struck, said that there would be strong winds and advised fishermen against venturing out into the sea.
Tamil Nadu got the message, literally and figuratively.
A state that prides in being the most literate and is leagues ahead of other states in social development, Kerala took a full 24 hours to understand the seriousness of the message. By that time, fishermen had set out to sea in the night and early morning.
If you look at the death toll in cyclone-hit Kanyakumari, you can understand Tamil Nadu’s readiness in adopting disaster management measures. Of the 11 who died, only two lost their lives in sea. The rest died on land in tree falls and building collapses.
Tamil Nadu managed to avert a major disaster thanks to the warnings issued in the night itself by collector Sajjan Singh R. Chavan and Kanyakumari additional collector Rahul Nath, who is a Kottayam native.
Rahul Nath, a 2012 IAS batch officer, says:
The warning came from IMD Delhi to the disaster management authority in Chennai at 12.30 pm on November 29. There is a sate emergency operation center that works round the clock under the disaster management authority. There are control rooms in all collectors that receive directives from the center and pass it on to officers.
The Kanyakumari control room that received the message in the afternoon passed it on to the collector. By 6 pm, a vehicle fitted with a loudspeaker was used to issue warning about the impending cyclone along the coastal belt.
Latin churches were also informed about the cyclone over phone. Fishermen got the message by evening itself and smalls fiber boats didn't venture out into the sea.
Mechanized boats that had gone for fishing before November 29 were the only one that didn't get the message. Walkie-talkies were used to provide them the information from the shore.
The Coast Guard was entrusted with the responsibility of informing the boats that were far away. Those boats were supposed to have moved to safer shores of other states. Reports coming in have confirmed that most of them are safe.
The media was informed in the evening and flash news started appearing in TV channels. This helped people in anticipating the disaster that was coming their way.
Holiday was declared for schools at 5 am. The wind that began blowing in the night gained strength by early morning. Heavy rain followed. The media was given press releases again at 8 am. The press releases had clearly mentioned the precautions needed to be taken.
Once the cyclone left the shores, under the leadership of the additional chief secretary, seven IAS officers landed in Kanyakumari district. The police personnel too were deployed under the ADGP.
The full name of the revenue wing of Tamil Nadu is the revenue and disaster management department. This show the importance the state gives to disaster management.