Evacuation of People during cyclone Phailin
Odisha State Disaster Management Authority

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
The experience of Super Cyclone of 1999 had indicated that about 10,000 people had lost their lives because they could not be evacuated from the vulnerable locations to safe shelters. When Phailin warning was communicated by India Meteorological Department, the State machinery took up preparedness measures like deployment of Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF) with emergency equipment for relief line clearance, prepositioning of food, water, medicine & fuel in strategic locations for immediate response activities. Decision was taken to evacuate people from vulnerable locations especially from within 5km from the coast line to save lives. But the biggest challenge was how to accomplish the task as the district and below level administration remain busy in other preparedness activities without giving adequate priority attention to evacuation. Normally, the warning is disseminated to the community leaving the members of the community to take decision as per their wisdom to go to a safe shelter or not. The biggest problem was how to evacuate the maximum number of people in the minimum possible time within the administrative arrangement of the Government at district and below level without creating panic among the community and without hampering the normal preparedness activities of the administration. Odisha State Disaster Management Authority (OSDMA) was entrusted with the responsibility of deployment of ODRAF & NDRF to different places as decided in a meeting taken by Chief Secretary /Additional Chief Secretary, Revenue & DM Department, Additional DGP and to conduct mock response drill in all the cyclone shelters immediately during which besides rehearsal of the disaster management techniques, various equipment available in the cyclone shelters may be test-used and steps be taken to repair the defective ones. To ensure ZERO casualty, the Collectors of Ganjam, Gajapati, Nayagarh, Khordha, Puri, Jagatsinghpur and Kendrapada were directed to evacuate all people living in low lying areas and in kutcha houses to the nearby cyclone/flood shelters or other identified buildings by morning of 12th October 2013, and to ensure that no one stays in a kutcha houses in the night of 12th October 2013 when the very severe cyclonic storm was expected to make land fall. Government operates in its hierarchies to take decisions as per the level and absorb command to translate it in to action. The very severe cyclonic storm Phailin hit the coast of Odisha on 12th October, 2013. The sustained wind speed was 190-200 kmph with gusts reaching 230 kmph. The preparedness activities at the state level had commenced on 8th of October, 2013. The enormity of the task was realised on 9th of October, 2013 when the reports from the districts indicated that neither the people nor the district authorities had taken evacuation seriously. It was visualised that whatever might be the preparedness to face the cyclone, without massive evacuation from the vulnerable locations even from the pucca houses, lives are going to be lost. The only possible answer to the problem was to evacuate at any cost. The system at that juncture of time could not allow augmentation in terms of human resource to accomplish the task. The challenge was to utilise the existing human and material resources at the command of the district administration and with intensive monitoring to evacuate people.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
Monitoring In the thick of activities putting required logistics in place for facilitating one of the massive evacuations in the domain of disaster management, an issue was hitting the minds of the senior most decision makers at the State level- how to effectively monitor the entire process of evacuation in the shortest possible time. Everyone was apprehensive and a bit nervous to accomplish this mammoth task smoothly and every one was convinced that without effective monitoring, the evacuation would not be carried properly. The combined experience of the senior officers at the State level was unanimous in indicating at one point that without evacuation lives are going to be lost reminding the gory past of Super Cyclone of 1999. Evacuation was decided to be taken with priority and planning so that in a high level preparatory review meeting, under the chairmanship of Chief Minister, conjectures were raised that evacuation monitoring for different districts might be given to different senior State level officers for keen monitoring of the operation. But in the back of their minds, experienced officers seemed to be ambivalent regarding the effectiveness of this as uniformity and equitable monitoring of all vulnerable Districts might be compromised. When Hon’ble Chief Minister looked for an answer to this critical part of governance, Additional Chief Secretary, Revenue and Disaster Management indicated that evacuation is not only an administrative issue but also involves social and logistics issues for which monitoring need to be done through the single window approach for effective and intensive coordination with District authorities and offices below that to ensure evacuation in the shortest possible time. The question remained who would do the task. After a few moments of silence, the responsibility was bestowed upon ACS, Revenue and DM and MD, OSDMA to monitor the process of evacuation in all the districts likely to be affected by cyclone Phailin. ACS R&DM who as MD, OSDMA had utilized the photo monitoring as a tool for bringing back World Bank supported National Cyclone Risk Mitigation Project (NCRMP) from moribund state to a running one decided to use the platform of SMS (Short Messaging Service) as intensive monitoring of the massive evacuation process. What emerged from the initiative reaffirmed the concept of monitoring in the administrative domain of disaster management for saving lives. The monitoring was carried out personally by the ACS R&DM Department on a minute to minute basis. Collectors, District level officers, BDOs and Tahasildars were virtually kept on a loop in all the vulnerable districts for taking steps for evacuating people to shelters places. The monitoring of the evacuation was done on carefully chalked out methodologies with clearly laid down instructions.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
The monitoring was carried out personally by the ACS R&DM Department on a minute to minute basis. Collectors, District level officers, BDOs and Tahasildars were virtually kept on a loop in all the vulnerable districts for taking steps for evacuating people to shelters places. The District Administration was also authorised to use the provision of Section 34 (C) of Disaster Management Act, 2005 to use force if required for evacuation. Urgency of the matter was such that the statutory orders in accordance with the Disaster Management Act which normally requires Government approval at the Chief Minister’s level was communicated by the Rev and DM Department without going through the procedural aspects.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
The monitoring of the evacuation was done on carefully chalked out methodologies with clearly laid down instructions. The following activities were among the priority areas in the monitoring process • District and local administrative officers were categorically intimated to communicate Early Warning to the people over and above the electronic and print media. The early warning was carried by the Government officials to the communities in most of the areas to be evacuated. Queries of the people were answered and clarifications provided in the most understandable local dialect to convince the illiterate and semi-literate persons about the ferocity of the approaching cyclone. • Collectors were advised to use community volunteers to disseminate Early Warning to the people and instructions were followed in letter and spirit. • All the stakeholder line departments in the district were under instruction to provide assistance for making logistic arrangement at temporary and shelter places for the evacuated persons. Essential items like food, materials, fuel for the generators, fuel for cooking, drinking water and other arrangements were coordinated by the respective line department officers in the district. • Collectors were specifically directed to ensure complete evacuation of people living in low lying areas and in kutcha houses to safer places by 11.10.2013 evening. • People living adjacent to rivers and creeks up to 20 km upstream from the mouth were also evacuated to safer places. • Free Kitchen centres were opened from the night of 11th October 2013 for the evacuated people. • The cattle population was also shifted to safety and cattle feed/ fodder arrangements were made for them. • Bitter lessons were learnt from super cyclone when people ignored the warning of the Authorities to evacuate. So the thrust was given to the process of evacuation. And the evacuation monitoring was taken by the officer-in-charge on a personal level thus bestowing a rare administrative importance to the process of evacuation. The monitoring was done on minute to minute basis with information received not only from the district but also directly from the Block and shelter level. Collectors were continuously on the loop to report the progress of evacuation. To avoid clogging of the cell phone network and keeping the personal cell phone of the ACS R&DM Department from being constantly engaged, the stakeholder field officers were directed by him to be in the loop through SMS. The otherwise casual and commercial SMS platform was used as a very serious job of monitoring evacuation of a million people to safer locations. • The practicality of monitoring the evacuation developed distinct methodologies as: 1. Communication from Institution to Institution and 2. Communication from Man to Man. The District Emergency Operation Centres (EOC) communicated with the State EOC and the control room of the Revenue and Disaster Management Department and the Collectors / field level officers communicated with the ACS personally. Thus, a massive evacuation was conducted without any major bottleneck. The cell phone screen of the personal mobile phone of ACS was the information provider to him • Time was short, area was too dispersed covering 14 districts and the task was herculean. A review by the Hon,ble Minister, R&DM on 12th October, 2013 at 11.30 AM revealed that around 3,61,000 persons from low lying areas and kachha houses, 1,20,000 people in Ganjam district; 80,000 in Puri district; 14,205 in Bhadrak district; 1950 in Balasore district; 46,409 in Cuttack district; 1,235 in Nayagarh district and 8,000 in Gajapati district. 9.84 lakh people were evacuated. Subsequently, 1, 71,083 persons were evacuated in 3 districts which were severely affected by flood following the cyclone.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
The decision for evacuation to achieve zero casualty was implemented by a number of stakeholders who played their respective roles in achieving the target and thus saved lives. At the State level along with the personnel monitoring of evacuation by Managing Director, OSDMA the monitoring was conducted by the Control Rooms set up in Odisha State Disaster Management Authority (OSDMA) and in Revenue & Disaster Management Department. The State Emergency Operation Centre (SEOC) also played its role in the process of evacuation. In the district level, Collector Sri Krishan Kumar was one of the most important stakeholders in achieving the task. His colleagues and officers in the district office along with the officers of the line departments assisted him in doing the job. The Block Development Officers and the Tahasildars at Sub-district level along with their staff actually went from house to house in the vulnerable areas to convince people to evacuate. The Police Forces, Home Guards and other personnel helped in evacuation by applying force where required as per section-34 ( C ) of Disaster Management Act, 2005. The Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) and Civil Society Organisations also provided their assistance in evacuation of the people. The local media also played their role in disseminating the information to the people that Government is serious about evacuation.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
The massive evacuation operation was carried out within 72 hours prior to the landfall of cyclone to ensure that people living in vulnerable locations and houses are taken to temporary safe shelters or cyclone shelters. This was a decision of the Government with a view to achieving zero casualties in the cyclone. The process of evacuation included safety of the shelter building, provisioning of food, drinking water, toilet facilities and security for women. All measures relating to evacuation were thoroughly planned. District Collectors of coastal areas were asked to evacuate people living in low-lying areas to safer places like cyclone shelters and school and college buildings. Repeated announcements were made on radio and television about the cyclone and instructions, the people needed to follow for their own safety. The ODRAF was pressed into service in the districts and medical, civil supply and power personnel were put on alert. NGO coordination meeting was convened at the State level to impress upon them to extend their support to the District Administration for evacuation to safe shelters. The Cyclone Shelter Management and Maintenance Committees (CSMMCs) were geared up to keep the Multipurpose Cyclone Shelters in readiness to accommodate people. Block Development Officers who are the Chairmen of the CSMMC were asked to take all required measures to keep the shelter buildings ready for evacuation. They were also instructed to keep adequate food materials for preparation of cooked food, drinking water and First Aid boxes ready in the shelters. Minor repair works were carried out immediately for up keeping of the buildings. Preparatory meetings were taken up at District and Block level. Emergency equipment available in the cyclone shelters were tested and readied for use by the members of the CSMMCs. The Task Force members trained in Search and Rescue and First Aid techniques were kept in standby to provide necessary assistance even during the evacuation operations.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
983642 people were evacuated in the districts likely to be affected by cyclone Phailin. The most successful output of the initiative was that nearly a million people were evacuated and thus their lives were saved. The details of the evacuated people are placed below: Balasore-4185, Bhadrak-48202, Cuttack-114306, Gajapati-36960, Ganjam-180000, Jagatsinghpur- 101457, Jajpur-91131, Kandhamal-13310, Kendrapada-59550, Keonjhar-11825, Khurdha- 185291, Koraput-3860, Nayagarh-31565, Puri-102000 The analysis indicates that about 430 pucca houses and 121246 kutcha houses have been fully damaged. On an average if four persons had remained in the houses, the causality could have reached to an enormous proportion. As the evacuation initiative shifted this people to safe shelters their lives were saved. The other major output was that the community members accepted evacuation as an alternative to save lives. The third output from the initiative was that people accepted use of force under Section-34 (c) of Disaster Management Act, 2005 empowering the administration to use force for evacuation as a bright sight of Governance. It indicates that people appreciate the good work done by the Government even if it hurts them a bit. The community members felt the utility of the shelter buildings to save lives and thus developed a sense of pride and belongingness towards these public infrastructure. Overall the effort consolidated the community feeling among the people to fight the disaster unitedly.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
The information on progress of evacuation was transmitted from the village and wards in the Urban Local Bodies to the Additional Chief Secretary, Revenue & DM Department and Managing Director, OSDMA. He was in personal contact with the Collectors of the districts on a minute to minute basis for evacuation details. Perhaps, this intense monitoring with the Collectors themselves drove the message to the district administration and all the functionaries working in the field to take evacuation in real seriousness. Even the Collectors along with their senior officers were present in the vulnerable villages in the dead of night on 11th October, 2013 either to persuade the people or to force them to evacuate to safe shelters. To accommodate maximum number of communications transmitted from the field to OSDMA, Collators were directed to send text messages instead of calling to the Managing Director personally. The simple platform of the SMS was transformed into an active tool to monitor the most demanding job of evacuating people from the vulnerable locations. Officers manning the control rooms were on strict instruction to talk with the field functionaries at different levels to collect information and bring it to the immediate notice of the MD, OSDMA. State intervention was provided instantly to solve the problems faced by the field level functionaries. Decision making was virtually on a virtual mode instead of taking the normal routine path of Administration. The State Administration became one with the district and field level operatives to take decisions instead of giving instructions only. This system adapted by the MD, OSDMA worked seamlessly combining different levels of hierarchy of the Government to accomplish the task of the massive evacuation.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
The biggest problem that was encountered during the evacuation process was to convince the local people to leave their houses and go to safe shelters. The people are psychologically linked to their houses and consider it to protect them in the event of a disaster even though the house is not strong enough to do that. The next problem was to convince people to evacuate when the weather was clear and sun was shining bright. People in the areas without any prior experience of cyclone were the most difficult to be convinced as they were driven by their perception that cyclones are not so dangerous. The traditional faith of the people in Government and Government officials was used as a tool to convince people to evacuate. Senior officers of the district including Collector were directed to go to the villages and talk with the people, man to man, to convince them. The warning communication was continuously provided through media in vernacular Odia with the details of the wind speed to occur and what effects it could bring to different types of houses. The logistics arrangement in the shelters like cooked food, drinking water, sanitation, lighting and security were very difficult to handle at the critical juncture of evacuation. The district administration with the help of coordination efforts from the State level organised prepositioning of food materials, drinking water, fuel for generators and other essential items for cooking in the shelter places. People were apprehensive about the security of their houses and belongings during their evacuation to the shelters as a result of which they were reluctant to move to the shelters. Security arrangement by Police and community volunteers was done for facilitating evacuation of the people. Even physical force was used in accordance with the provisions of the law to evacuate people as a last resort.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
The whole objective of the initiative was to save lives against the devastating effects of the cyclone due to high wind speed, storm surges and flooding by incessant rain in the wake of the cyclone. The most important aspect of the initiative to evacuate the maximum number of people was to drive the information about the killing force of the cyclone and making them realise the vulnerability of their locality and their houses in to the minds of the people of the vulnerable locations. The massive evacuation operation was just not shifting people from their houses but to convince a large section of the society to appreciate their vulnerability and be a part of the disaster management decision making process of the Government to remain safe even against the inconvenience of staying in the shelter places for a few hours of couple of days without adequate facilities. The impact of the initiative was felt as people believed in the warning communication given by the Government, accepted the effort of the administration and cooperated with the Government functionaries to leave their houses to go to the shelters. Besides the Multipurpose Cyclone & Flood Shelters which are designed to accommodate a large number of people during disasters, a huge number of other public buildings like schools, colleges, Government offices and private infrastructure like civil society establishments, private engineering colleges were used which are not originally designed to operate as shelters. The facilities like cooking food for a large number of people, sanitation facilities and privacy for women and adolescent girls were not adequate. But the people who took shelter in these facilities accepted the reality and showed their solidarity with the Government even in the face of inconvenience which is considered as a significant impact of the initiative. District administrations were authorised to use force where required to evacuate people as per the provisions of Section-34 (C) of the Disaster Management Act, 2005. In a few areas, people were evacuated by force and in many other areas people were told sternly to evacuate or face action by the administration. Not a single case of complaint was received against the police or state authorities as people in general felt the good initiative taken by the Government to evacuate to save lives. Forcible evacuation, which is otherwise a very touchy subject which could have triggered large scale public resentment did not evoke any protest from the community. This strengthens the concept that when Government really takes people along for a general cause without any fear or favour, the governed or the people repose their trust with the system of governance. In the field of disaster management, the involvement of the community as the first responder is considered as paramount for effective management of the disasters. The initiative further strengthened the bond between the Government and the people. As a part of learning from the experience, an independent study was taken up by Institute of Economic Growth (IEG), Delhi University on evacuation behaviour of the people affected by cyclone Phailin and the expectation of the public from the administration. Some of the study findings are placed below for appreciation. People’s evacuation behaviour was assessed after recording their preparedness behaviour following storm warning. This assessment was done in two different ways: (i) by asking them whether they thought of evacuating to a shelter or not and the reasons behind such thought after they heard of the cyclone warning and (ii) secondly by finding out whether they actually evacuated to shelter or not. The purpose of such assessment was to know whether coastal households are transforming their thoughts to action or not. When asked about the future evacuation venue if such a cyclone again strikes the coast, people who had evacuated to shelters confirmed that they will evacuate to the shelter and additionally, few others who hadn’t evacuated or had evacuated elsewhere, confirmed that they will go to the shelter only. Thus, percentage of households who will evacuate to shelter in future is much larger than the households who evacuated during Phailin. The emotional attachment of villagers to their village cyclone shelter was assessed by asking them question: “How proud are you as your village has a cyclone shelter?” The question had three options as the following: very proud, just feels good, and indifferent. 77.81 % people expressed their attachment to cyclone shelters as Very Proud. This indicates a very positive impact of the initiative for generating greater sense of involvement and pride of the local community for their shelter.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
The initiative is considered to be sustainable and transferable. Evacuation has emerged as a strategic as well as tactical approach to save lives in disasters. People living in pucca houses in the impact zone also need to be evacuated as the houses are likely to be damaged by falling trees. As the initiative of taking up the massive evacuation during Phailin was conducted within the system of Government involving Government officials and infrastructure, it would be easy to sustain the initiative without any problem. The other sustainability aspect of the initiative is use of constitutional provisions for evacuation by the Government. The initiative is also transferable as a Government activity in other locations likely to be affected by similar natural calamities. The financial sustainability of the initiative is ensured as the evacuation logistics were provided through Government funding. Social and economic sustainability is very much achievable as the initiative is propagated by Government with equity for all sections of society irrespective of social and economic status. The initiative is conducive to the cultural attributes of the community. As evacuation is conducted for a community, the cultural identity and requirements of the homogeneous people is not tampered with. The initiative is environmentally sustainable as the shelter places to facilitate evacuation are permanent concrete buildings either designed for the purpose with environmental compliances or other similar buildings where environmental problems are not expected. The initiative has been executed using established Government Institutions like Revenue & Disaster Management Department, OSDMA, Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) at State and District level, Panchayati Raj Institutions which are permanent in nature. The initiative is sustainable so far regulatory mechanism is concerned as Government is the Sovereign Authority to exercise regulatory powers as it had done by promulgating Section-34 (C) of Disaster Management Act, 2005 during Phailin. The initiative has been documented with relevant information and data and published in a book form which could act as institutional memory to be used by different stakeholders in future. The information could be shared with anybody.

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
Sound disaster management needs to learn from the past disasters to strengthen the disaster management system, identify the gaps and challenges in preparedness and community response to cyclone warning and the factors debarring voluntary evacuation, links community response to the socio-economic vulnerability status of the community, evaluates the role of state institutions like ODRAF, CSMMC, etc. and identifies the scope for better cooperation between civil society and state institutions. The practical experience gained from handling the Phailin finds strong evidences that these years of capacity building efforts have given very good positive results in changing the mind set and perception of the society towards disaster. They have become more vigilant, receptive to storm warning, to evacuation order, have become highly compliant and are possessive about the infrastructure like shelter houses which are developed in their villages. Institutions like Village Task Force, Cyclone Shelter Management and Maintenance Committees, Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF) have delivered their duties well during cyclone Phailin and civil society seems to be quite appreciative of their role. This is a commendable achievement in a developing country, especially in a lagging area in terms of economic prosperity and education. However, there are many grey areas like less responsive communities who need more persuasion, better understanding of the vulnerability status and disaster reduction requirement of different area depending on their location and spatial features, declining interest in institutional activities by some key personnel, need for innovative steps to bring back the enthusiasm etc. Investment of time and effort and redesigning of some of the policies are needed, as discussed in the study, to increase the resilience of the communities and the region to cyclone disaster. Steps needed for future resilience building The discussion of community behaviour and role played by institutions like CSMMC and ODRAF shows many success stories like very high rate of compliance to evacuation. But this high rate of compliance is not uniform across all districts. The conjecture emerges whether all the coastal areas are equal in terms of their vulnerability status and preparedness measures. Experience indicates that different physiographic features of coastal districts varying from Balasore to Kendrapada and Puri including differential bathymetry of the 480 km coastline need to be kept in mind while designing disaster management strategy for a specific region. This also reiterates the fact that cultural attributes of different regions need to be taken into active consideration while formulating policy and planning for disaster preparedness, capacity building and response activities. The capacity of cyclone shelters seems to have been over estimated as shelters can accommodate less number of people against the claim of the capacity being. This was reported by many villagers and it is acting as a psychological barrier in people’s mind to go to the shelter for the fear of not having any space to sit. Both civil society and state institutions need to be facilitated to augment their capacity for developing disaster resilience. There are communities who have been sensitized enough and seem to be resilient, but there are still some communities who are yet to realize the threat to their lives. Similarly, there is need to sensitize civil society towards state institutions and make state institutions learn the sensitive ways to handle civil society so that better and positive outcomes come out from their interaction. Both play complementary role during disasters and positive attitudes towards each other in necessary.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Odisha State Disaster Management Authority
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Dr. Taradatt Taradatt
Title:   Managing Director, OSDMA  
Telephone/ Fax:   +91674-2395531/+91674-2391871
Institution's / Project's Website:  
E-mail:   osdma@osdma.org  
Address:   Odisha State Disaster Management Authority, Rajiv Bhawan, 2nd Floor, Unit-V, Bhubaneswar, Odisha
Postal Code:   751001
City:   Bhubaneswar
State/Province:   Odisha

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