The armed forces have made widespread arrangements to tackle the fallout of ‘Very Severe Cyclonic Storm’ Yaas that made its landfall south of Balasore in Odisha and bordering areas of West Bengal on 26 May. The cyclone left behind a trail of destruction on the eastern coast of the country. Armed forces teams have been in constant touch with the civil administration of the affected states to coordinate relief work.
The Army, Indian Air Force (IAF) and Navy have taken a series of measures for rescue and relief operations in the affected areas. The Army’s Eastern Command is spearheading the operations. It has mobilised its assets for quick response. All rescue and relief operations are being coordinated with the state government and a Task Force has been set up to monitor the efforts, an Army official disclosed.
Framework of Indian Army’s Assistance
A total of 17 integrated Cyclone Relief Columns, comprising of specialised personnel with associated equipment and inflatable boats, have been deployed. Columns were prepositioned at Purulia, Jhargram, Birbhum, Bardhaman, West Midnapur, Howrah, Hoogly, Nadia, 24 Parganas -North and South. At least nine Cyclone Relief Columns were also kept on standby in Kolkata, for redeployment as necessary in West Bengal, at short notice. Three Columns and one Engineer Task Force have been deployed in Balasore, Odisha.
These teams are equipped to undertake rescue and relief operations to include casualty evacuation of stranded/marooned persons, medical treatment, road clearing/tree cutting and distribution of relief material, as would be required by the local district administration.
As per the Army statement, nearly 700 people have been rescued from flood waters in East Midnapore, till such time as this story was filed. Rescue operations by the Army are still underway in the worst affected areas of Orphuli in Howrah district, Talgachari in East Midnapore of West Bengal.
Indian Air Force Measures
The Indian Air Force has been conducting operations since May 21 to mitigate the fallouts of Cyclone Yaas. It airlifted 21 tonnes of Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) equipment and 334 personnel of the National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) from Patna and Varanasi to Kolkata, and from Arakkonam to Port Blair, utilising five C-130 aircraft. The IAF had also airlifted an additional 606 personnel to various destinations to undertake relief works.
16 transport aircraft and 26 helicopters were kept on standby for immediate deployment. The IAF has also kept one C-17, one IL-76, three C-130s, four An-32s and two Dornier transport aircrafts in readiness for HADR tasks. Additionally, 11 Mi-17V5 helicopters, two Chetak helicopters, three Cheetahs, 2 ALH Dhruvs and seven Mi17 helicopters are also on alert for any eventuality.
On 25 May, one C-130 and two An-32 aircraft airlifted 102 passengers and 4.5 tons of cargo for NDRF from Lilabari to Kolkata. In addition, 2 IAF An-32 aircraft have been deployed for airlifting 41 passengers and 4 tons of NDRF material from Lilabari to Panagarh air base.
Indian Navy’s Efforts
Indian Navy, fresh from Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) tasks and rescue operations on account of Cyclone Tauktae, has moved 10 HADR pallets to Bhubaneswar and Kolkata, while five HADR pallets are ready at Port Blair. Eight ships of Eastern Naval Command and Andaman and Nicobar Command have loaded their HADR Bricks to provide succour to the people likely to be impacted, a Navy official said. Four diving teams and 10 flood relief columns have been pre-positioned at Kolkata, Bhubaneswar and Chilika for assisting civil administration, the official added.
Seven flood relief teams and two diving teams are ready at different locations in Andaman and Nicobar Islands to deal with any eventuality. In addition, naval aircraft and helicopters in Vishakhapatnam and Port Blair are on operational readiness to undertake search and rescue missions.
All teams remained ‘action ready’ from 25 May onwards during the approach phase of the cyclone and were swiftly deployed post Landfall, off Odisha-West Bengal Coast on 26 May, a Navy official informed. He further added that the flood relief team (FRT) positioned at Digha and Frazerganj in West Bengal were deployed soon after landfall for relief and rescue operations. All teams remained on task for more than 12 hours.
Cyclone Yaas triggered heavy damage, to include five deaths – four in Odisha and one in West Bengal. More than 20 lakh people have been evacuated from the affected areas in both states. Balasore and Bhadrak districts in Odisha bore the brunt with 128 villages being marooned. The storm surge razed homes in the seaside resort of Digha, East and West Midnapore, North and South 24-Parganas are the worst affected areas in West Bengal.