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Reducing disaster mortality in Odisha

In the eye of the storm, conquering cyclone Phailini © UNISDR

India

The super-cyclone that impacted the State of Odisha, India on 29 and 30 October 1999 killed 9,843 people. Fourteen years later (October 2013) no more than 47 died when the equally powerful Cyclone Phailin swept through the same area. The Odisha State Disaster Management Authority was established shortly after the super-cyclone in 1999 (GFDRR, 2013a). Subsequently, 200 cyclone shelters were built and early warning systems were developed, including communication networks that enabled warnings to reach both exposed communities and fishermen out at sea. Embankments were built to protect against storm surges and coastal flooding. Reservoir levels are now lowered when cyclones are predicted in order to mitigate anticipated inland flooding. At the same time, the vulnerability of urban areas has been assessed and building codes introduced (GFDRR, 2013a; UNEP, 2013). In addition, the accuracy of forecasts made by the Indian Meteorological Department has greatly improved. In 2013, warnings were disseminated four days before Cyclone Phailin made landfall, which points to a significant improvement compared to the two days’ warning given in 1999 (UNEP, 2013). Finally, the cyclone made landfall in a pre-electoral period, meaning that both the national and state governments deployed all available resources to ensure that the disaster was well managed and its impacts minimised.

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