‘Disaster management system failed during Cyclone Ockhi’

Experts fault delayed IMD warning, downsizing of NDMA for extent of damages suffered in the wake of the natural calamity

Published - December 20, 2017 11:45 pm IST - CHENNAI

The loss of lives and the damage to property suffered due to Cyclone Ockhi that lashed Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Lakshadweep could have been mitigated had the disaster management system that was in place had functioned as it was meant to, experts who attended a symposium organised here by the People’s Parliament for Unity and Development and the Save Kanniyakumari Movement said.

The Tamil Nadu State Disaster Management Authority issued a cyclone warning on the evening of November 29, a little before the cyclone hit. But this was too late as fishermen in Kanniyakumari, who venture deep into the sea, had already gone to sea the previous day for fishing, say experts. Retired bureaucrat M.G. Devasahayam said that even a week earlier, the ocean had showed signs of a building cyclonic storm, and had the IMD followed the patterns, it could have issued a forecast well in advance.

A document containing resolutions for adoption was released at the meeting, in which participants expressed deep concern over the near total failure of the disaster management system before, during., and after Cyclone Ockhi. The document draws attention to the downsizing of the disaster management agencies in recent times. These include reduction in the number of members of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) from eight to four and dispensing with the post of the vice-chairman. The resolutions document also points to the winding up of the World Bank-funded Coastal Disaster Risk Reduction Project in Tamil Nadu in October 2017 as contributing to the mismanagement of the cyclone, as the move deprived the Revenue department of 87 staff trained in disaster management.

Lack of leadership

Retired IAS officer Mohan Kanda, a former member of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) told The Hindu that the way the State and central governments responded during the cyclone revealed a lack of proper coordination and leadership.

“There are clear guidelines available on cyclone management from the NDMA. Plus every State government has a disaster management plan. There is a National Disaster Response Force battalion stationed right there in Arakkonam that is specifically trained for cyclone relief. As soon as the warning came, the system should have rolled out, but there were slip-ups,” he said.

Another big vacuum in the NDMA’s current response mechanism is that there is no proper documentation as to how deep-sea relief ought to be carried out, Mr. Kanda said, adding, “Currently, we are dependent on the Indian Navy and Coast Guard for this, but the Ockhi experience has taught us that the NDMA needs to develop clear protocols on these too for speedy response.”

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.