But for the advance preparations made by the Naveen Patnaik government, Cyclone Yaas would have caused much more damage. Not only was the scale of damage minimized due to the clockwork efficiency of the state administration, but the casualty count was also low. From, the word go, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik personally monitored the entire operation to combat the cyclone that was tagged as “very severe” by the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD).
While the disaster fighting units of NDRF, ODRAF and Fire Department were despatched to the vulnerable districts in advance, the Chief Minister deputed senior IAS and IPS officers to five districts, including Balasore and Bhadrak which were supposed to bear the brunt of the cyclone. Hours before Yaas made landfall in Balasore close to Bahanaga on May 26, minister of state for home Dibya Shankar Mishra, who also happens to handle the energy portfolio, had reached Balasore on the Chief Minister’s direction.
The administration, thus, was fully prepared for the havoc that the cyclone wreaked in the coastal districts both before and after its landfall. Teams of NDRF, ODRAF and fire personnel immediately got to work and began clearing roads by cutting down the branches of fallen trees and removing other kinds of obstacles. Power restoration work began in the full swing and water was supplied through tankers in areas where the supply had been disrupted due to power outages.
Since the Chief Minister has always emphasized upon preparations with “zero casualties” target in mind, nearly seven lakh people from vulnerable areas on the coast had been shifted to around 7,000 cyclone shelters much before the gale acquired a fierce form. Aware that state was also battling the challenge of Covid-19 pandemic and any error of judgement could prove costly, the Chief Minister had issued specific instructions that cyclone shelters should not only be fully sanitized but health workers should also be deployed there to ensure that people followed Covid protocol by maintaining the required physical distance and wearing masks. In many areas, people with misgivings about contracting the virus in these shelters had to be persuaded to move in before the cyclone hit the coast.
As the cyclone made its way towards Jharkhand via Mayurbhanj, it was time for Odisha government to shift its focus to relief, rehabilitation and restoration work. Keenly aware of the hardships being faced by the people in villages marooned by the tidal surges caused by the cyclone and the downpour that it had triggered, the Chief Minister announced seven-day relief for people in 128 of such marooned villages. Simultaneously, he issued instructions for building important roads in the cyclone-affected belt that can be communicable within 24 hours and also for restoration of power supply in at least 80 percent of the areas to ensure that people did not suffer much. With his successful handling of the challenge posed by Yaas, the five-time Chief Minister has once again set an example for others to follow.