Bhubaneswar, Oct 29 (LocalWire): Twenty years down memory lane, the scars of the cataclysmic super cyclone on 29-30 October 1999 are still deeply etched in the minds of the people living in the seaside villages of Kendrapara and Jagatsinghpur districts.
Nature’s fury made most of them mentally stronger. There has been a steady evolution in the mindset of disaster preparedness ever since seaside pockets witnessed dance of death in its ugliest form.
‘Nature played a cruel joke on us. I was 31-years-old then. Mighty waves literally crashed into our village. As many as 120 people from our village perished. The disaster taught us that men are helpless in the face of calamity. But we could take things in our stride with the help provided by government agencies and aid initiatives from various quarters and have been able to rebuild our lives,’ recalled Prafulla Khanduala from Japa village, that was one of the worst cyclone-ravaged pockets two decades back.
‘The cyclone of 1999 has taught us not to ignore weather warnings. Precaution and preparedness are prioritized by people living in cyclone-prone villages. The preparedness has paid rich dividends. We faced at least four cyclones with tenacity and resolve and successfully managed to thwart loss of life and property since then,’ 51-year-old Khanduala narrated.
‘The state-of-the-art early warning system developed since then has come in handy for us to move to safer places once the cyclone warning is sounded,’ he added.
Like Khanduala, people from these clusters which witnessed the catastrophic cyclone and ingress tidal waves reiterate the evolution of preparedness mindset in vulnerable pockets.
‘The bitter experience still remains intact in our minds. We saw how furious the sea and the cyclone could become. People nowadays are not taking chances because of the increased awareness level. They are shifting voluntarily to the safety of cyclone shelters once the warning is sounded,’ said 55-year-old Pradyot Giri from Badadandua village in Kendrapara district.
The super cyclone claimed as many as 11,966 human lives while families of 6,228 cyclone victims had been disbursed ex-gratia aid. The worst-hit was Erasama block in Jagatsinghpur district had accounted for the loss of over 6,000 human lives.
People now have realized that if they ignore cyclone warnings they will have to pay a heavy price. People have become vigilant and alert. It has evolved from grass roots level.
‘Periodic awareness campaigns and mock drills on disaster preparedness have gone a long way in sensitizing people. Improved weather warning system has also invigorated the disaster control mechanism,’ observed Sangram Mohapatra, Jagatsinghpur Collector.