Vishakapatnam reels from Cyclone Hudhud’s hit
Getting Visakhapatnam back on its feet
Pummeled by Cyclone Hudhud on October 12, Vishakhapatnam, the bustling coastal city of Andhra Pradesh, now lies in ruins. With an iron feast, Haudhud ripped the city apart devastating its airport, steel plant, power lines, communication towers and scores of shanty huntsmen, small businesses and homes. The city has been crippled beyond recognition.
However, there has been some positive developments. As Hudhud approached the shores, the government machineries at the centre and the state pooled their resources together to warn people, arrange evacuation, deploy rapid action teams and doing a host of other things to minimize the impact of the deadly winds. As a result of such preemptive measures, number of deaths remained at less than 25, and the people of the city and the interior villages could be saved from much wrenching pain.
It is heartening to see a growing awareness among people and the governments about the best way of bracing up to such cataclysmic whims of Nature. Lessons have been learnt from the successes and failures of government intervention in the aftermath of earlier cyclones of similar nature.
Odisha was initially thought to be along Hudhud’s path. Fortunately, the vulnerable areas of the State were spared. The Vizag Port was, however, hit by Hudhud with savage vengeance. The fine port now lies in a shambles. The planning and hard work of the disaster management personnel was commendable. Nearly two lakh people living in vulnerable areas along the coast were evacuated in time. And, after the storm crossed the coast leaving a trail of devastation, rescue and relief operations began with remarkable alacrity. People must bear with the authorities for a little longer. Getting the basic infrastructure back in place is a daunting challenge. It is going to take some time, no matter whatever resources are deployed.
Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu rushed to the embattled city to personally oversee the massive relief operations and draw up plans to get Vijag on its feet. Prime Minister Modi has stepped in to lend a shoulder to the Chief Minister as the latter struggles to grapple with the gigantic re-building task ahead. Mr. Naidu has asked for an ad hoc interim assistance of Rs.2,000 crore and Mr. Modi has promptly offered Rs. 1000 crores as immediate relief. The priorities now are obvious — ensuring the availability of essential commodities, provision of drinking water and milk, and early restoration of communications and power supply.
For the llast few decades, high-intensity cyclones originating in the Bay of Bengal have hit the Andhra Pradesh-Odisha coastline with alarming regularity. Meteorological records since 1871 show that Cyclone Hudhud succeeded 74 earlier visits of such monstrous winds.
In recent years, India has made great strides in its efforts to contain the damage of natural disasters. The National Policy on Disaster Management has been put in place. Teams of specially trained personnel are now kept ready in different locations of the country to quickly reach affected areas and start work. The sharp reduction in deaths and injuries as a consequence of Nature’s unleashing of its fury clearly points to such efforts.
Neighbouring States like Odisha have offered help to get the downed power lines back in service. The Prime Minister should have no hesitation to offer whatever help this State needs. This disaster has come close on the heels of the trauma Andhra suffered after its bifurcation. Andhra’s plea for grant of Special Category status must now receive more urgent and sympathetic consideration.
Mr. Naidu can utilize this opportunity to rebuild the ruined Vishakhapatnam airport with foreign investment and know-how. The airport, so far owned and managed by the Navy, has been a poor fit for this rapidly growing industrial and business hub. It is time the airport gets a new look and a new management. Similarly, the highway network has been damaged and need quick restoration. Scores of trees have been uprooted and broken down. Massive aforestation is the answer to this problem. As the city weeps, the country must come forward to wipe its tears.