7 February 2010

The Cuddalore Experience

THE CUDDALORE EXPERIENCE
- Anu George

1. Immediately after the tsunami struck Cuddalore, what were some of the first tasks the administration had to do?

Cuddalore, in Tamil Nadu, has always been prone to natural disasters of one kind or the other. The shocking, spine jerking, tsunami experience of 26th of December 2004 was like no other. The extent or immensity of loss, the suddenness with which it approached, without prediction and lack of preparedness of people has made an unbelievable amount of destruction. The disaster was much different from any others for the intense havoc it damaged: the spread was small but the damage huge.
The tsunami left 618 dead in Cuddalore, loss of animals was put to 29 lakh. A vast area of 517.7 hectares of land was rendered saline and property worth nearly 300 crore was destroyed. The terrible tragedy scarred the lives of over 97,000 people, and thousands were rendered homeless in a matter of minutes.
Anu George is an IAS officer, incharge of the district of the relief and rehabilitation operations.

Immediate rescue and relief Operations:


The first and foremost task in disaster management in Cuddalore was that of rescue and relief operation. Tragedy had happened in immensely large proportion, the task is very high to accommodate and provide rescue and relief operation. Hospitals had to be made ready to attend to the thousands being brought in, dead or alive. First aid to the injured, care for the seriously affected and consolation to the bereaved had to be given. It was very troublesome and painful task of disposing the dead bodies, mass burial was the only way out and it took a lot of persuasion and effort on the part of our field officials to get the task done by the morning of 27th December. Many people had come to search their lost relatives or friends. All the bodies were photographed individually before the burial for future identification purposes. The burial was an important task for two reasons: 1. For controlling the outbreak of diseases, 2. For ensuring faster and smoother relief operations.
Public information centres, and public announcement system had facilitated to carve out the confusion at the hospitals. The next important job was to provide food and water for nearly 24,000 people who had fled from their villages in the coastal areas to the interior. Philanthropist and volunteers had taken a great initiative to meet the emergency. Organizations had pooled up the resources and provided food and water.

Relief Centres

The villagers in coastal regions were scared and moved to the interiors of the district in panic. Most of the relief camps that were opened up almost immediately were housed in the wedding halls of the district. Around thirty eight centres were set up for the refugees. The next task in hand was to provide food and water to the refugees till the time that these camps lasted. This was a massive exercise in coordination between the authorities and the voluntary sector. They devised a tracking system whereby the officials’ incharge at each centre would report to the control room about the arrangements that were in place for the next meal. Sanitary workers were appointed to clean the places on a daily basis. Their work was constantly monitored.
Medical camps were also set up. The arrangement was such that every camp had atleast one visit from a team of doctors every day. Wherever there was more than one camp within a short distance, the medical camp functioned all day.
The cooked food brought in by the volunteer was monitored as a precautionary measure. This was necessary because in a few places, the food, which was brought in from far flung areas, had got spoilt during transportation due to the heat.
With the help of a few agencies, we were able to put up sintex tanks in all the relief centres, thus ensuring a steady supply of water. Additional responsibility was laid those who had leadership qualities that no problem was unattended without delay.

Restoration of Civic Amenities:

The water from all the sources was tested with the assistance from voluntary agencies and was found potable in all but one source. Here the tsunami had rendered the drinking water sources saline. With the support of NGOs, three desalination plants based on reverse osmosis were set up in this area. The help from NGOs kept pouring in and we were able to get commitments for maintenance of the desalination units also, which was very important.

Civic amenities, power supply, water and bore wells were provided. Intensive police patrolling had done to prevent thefts and any untoward happenings.

Communications:

Control rooms were established in the three worst affected areas to coordinate the efforts of the field staff and to monitor the relief operations. To some extent the HAM radio operators helped them in this process. And using mobile phones by the top officials were of great help to meet the demands.

Mass Cleaning:

It was important to clean up the village to bring a normal state. Entire area was filled with dead bodies and carcasses. It was also a vital move in the control of epidemics. This was done in a massive scale by local NSS, NYK and army personnel.
The World Health Organisation warned that more people would die of epidemics rather than of the tsunami. They had started a massive exercise to disinfect the relief centres and the villages, using bleaching power, line and phenyl, which were made available in huge quantities.

Community Kitchens:

Organising community kitchens to feed the thousands of displaced people was an exercise in coordination. It needed huge quantity of vegetables, fuel and other provisions at short notices. Donors’ money was used for this purpose and 7,085 people were fed in the 23 community kitchens across the district for over a month. Officers’ incharge got the daily report for next meal arrangements to ensure food supply was never disrupted.


Handling Relief Materials:


From the second day onwards, relief materials started pouring in from all directions. For good use of relief material, they followed a smooth system, computerized entry with the help of two volunteers. Relief materials like medicine, cloths, groceries etc were sent to the much needed areas.
The donors who donated through administration were given an official acknowledgement for the materials. This addressed the issue of accountability. There were others who wanted to distribute directly to the villagers. It was not a good option but required arrangements were made to facilitate the distribution. There was a perfect system to ease the distribution process.

Health:


The department of health rendered yeoman’s service in this crisis. Twenty-three teams comprising both government and private doctors were mobilized for medical camps.
Initially the camps were set up in the relief centres, but they were later shifted to the villages. They had organized counseling for the mentally traumatized. Initially, Red Cross Society’s volunteers helped to identify the people who were in need of counseling. To ensure some kind of continuity in the process, people were trained to carry the program forward. And temporary camp was set up in one of the villagers for this purpose.

Agriculture:

Government had enhanced compensation package for the farmers. The farmers were told the various scientific institutions for eco-friendly technologies to facilitate faster reclamation. This was important as in many places the farmers had already watered the land in the hope of planting the next crop, without being aware of the consequence of their actions.

Children:

Authorities, voluntaries, organizations had taken intimate care to bring back the traumatized children. It was felt that play therapy would be the best healer. This made a great impact on the children.
The government home opened for the tsunami orphans also received special attention. Children were provided with all the basic amenities’ comforts with the help of various donors. The home was opened bearing in mind the special needs, including the psychosocial well being, of the tsunami affected children. Schools and colleges were these children could go to were identified in the fast possible manner; and students were provided with books and bags as well. Immediate steps were also undertaken to reopen schools as early as possible.


Shelter:

Temporary shelters had to be put up because it is inevitable to stay long at relief centres. It was also necessary to bring village into normalcy. A large number of temporary shelters were put up with the help of the voluntary bodies and the Rural Development Department. Based on the good feedback the sheltering work was continuously extended. A lot of thrust was placed on the flooring and the controlling the heat. The sanitation needs of the rehabilitation were met with the help of voluntary agencies.

Conclusion:

Disasters both natural and manmade expose the most vulnerable sections of society to grave danger. These disasters widen the poverty. The poor people are suffered atmost. It takes many years to recuperate and to bring city to normalcy. It was fortunate that many philanthropist gave their support. But, atlast are we limiting our support to such disasters.

2.Provide a short note on the account of damage caused by floods and tsunami to Cuddalore in 2004.

Cuddalore, in Tamil Nadu, has always been prone to natural disasters of one kind or the other. The shocking, spine jerking, tsunami experience of 26th of December 2004 was like no other. The extent or immensity of loss, the suddenness with which it approached, without prediction and lack of preparedness of people has made an unbelievable amount of destruction. The disaster was much different from any others for the intense havoc it damaged: the spread was small but the damage huge.
The tsunami left 618 dead in Cuddalore, loss of animals was put to 29 lakh. A vast area of 517.7 hectares of land was rendered saline and property worth nearly 300 crore was destroyed. The terrible tragedy scarred the lives of over 97,000 people, and thousands were rendered homeless in a matter of minutes. The area near the coast was reduced to rubble. Fifty one habitations were badly damaged by the sea waves. A large number of animals were treated for various illnesses. A large number of people including children were traumatized.


3.What steps did the administration take to ensure that potable water was available?

Restoration of Civic Amenities:

The administration had taken very stringent measure to provide potable water. The water from all the sources was tested with the assistance from voluntary agencies and was found potable in all but one source. Here the tsunami had rendered the drinking water sources saline. With the support of NGOs, three desalination plants based on reverse osmosis were set up in this area. The help from NGOs kept pouring in and we were able to get commitments for maintenance of the desalination units also, which was very important.

Civic amenities, power supply, water and bore wells were provided. Intensive police patrolling had done to prevent thefts and any untoward happenings.

4.What were the means used to establish contact between the control rooms and the field staff?
Communications:
Communication is one of the important areas to take up the relief operations very fast. So that nothing can be delayed and everything has to reach to all the victims. For that control rooms were established in the three worst affected areas to coordinate the efforts of the field staff and to monitor the relief operations. To some extent the HAM radio operators helped them in this process. And using mobile phones by the top officials were of great help to meet the demands. All the officials had taken a very provocative action in this regard. Meeting the demand was top priority.

5.How was the distribution of clothes and medicines that poured in for the tsunami victims handled?
Handling Relief Materials:
Handling Relief Materials was very important. And these things are to be management in a best possible way. Administration had started a separate system for smooth distribution of clothes and medicines. From the second day onwards, relief materials started pouring in from all directions. For good use of relief material, they followed a smooth system, computerized entry with the help of two volunteers. Relief materials like medicine, cloths, groceries etc were sent to the much needed areas.
The donors who donated through administration were given an official acknowledgement for the materials. This addressed the issue of accountability. There were others who wanted to distribute directly to the villagers. It was not a good option but required arrangements were made to facilitate the distribution. There was a perfect system to ease the distribution process.

6.What was some of the work done by the medical teams formed as part of the disaster management efforts in Cuddalore?
Health:
The department of health rendered yeoman’s service in this crisis. Twenty-three teams comprising both government and private doctors were mobilized for medical camps. Initially the camps were set up in the relief centres, but they were later shifted to the villages. They had organized counseling for the mentally traumatized. Initially, Red Cross Society’s volunteers helped to identify the people who were in need of counseling. To ensure some kind of continuity in the process, people were trained to carry the program forward. And temporary camp was set up in one of the villagers for this purpose.

The district administration of Cuddalore set up thirty-eight centres for refugees. Food and water were supplied regularly. Snitary workers were appointed to clean the places on a daily basis. Medical camps were also set up. Teams of doctors visited the camps every day. The cooked food was monitored as a precautionary measure. Villages were cleaned up to control epidemics. Dead bodies of human beings and animals were disposed of. To disinfect relief centres and ravaged villages, bleaching powder, lime and phenyl were used. Twenty three teams of doctors did wonderful service. They treated 80,117 people with 437 people as in-patients. The doctors also gave 9373 doses of measles and polio vaccine. They further mobilized 17,000 typhoid vaccines. The medical teams organized counseling for the mentally traumatized people including children. Play therapy sessions were specially held for children. Homes were opened for tsunami orphans to provide them psychosocial well-being.

2 comments:

rose said...

Hi,
Please check the answers as they don't match the given context.

ghalia noor said...

About anu george

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