AA Edit | Prepare for extreme weather

Northeastern states grapple with aftermath of Tropical Storm Remal, highlighting need for better disaster preparedness amidst climate change

At least four to five of the northeastern states suffered heavily from the rain that the season’s first tropical storm Remal triggered over the region. As the cyclone, a heat engine of wind and rain, was brewing in the Bay of Bengal for days, there was time which West Bengal utilised well to prepare by moving lakhs of the most vulnerable people from the path of the storm.

In coordination with the Central disaster agency, West Bengal took measures that helped keep the loss of lives to storm-related incidents to the minimum (seven), but the northeastern states may have been caught napping as at least 37 people died there and dozens more are missing.

Given many parts of the northeast region are hilly or of undulating terrain that are distinctly prone to mud and landslides, moving people to shelters for anticipated heavy rain may not be as easy as in the plains. But to have a quarry operating in Aizwal district in Mizoram in such weather and losing around 17 people, including two minors, amounted to criminal negligence. And children died in mishaps while getting to schools in such adverse conditions.

As tropical storms rage through India in and out of the monsoon season, there are things to be learnt from each experience. The example of Odisha is often quoted in having put together model plans for evacuation and safety of people ahead of each storm, minimising loss of life and damage to dwellings and infrastructure.

It appears Assam, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Manipur and Nagaland have some way to go to prepare for extreme weather events of which there will only be more coming, and of greater intensity too as global warming-induced climate change make them more powerful, with one study predicting cyclones with twice the destructive power of present-day storms.

It is known that millions in India dwell in less than the safest possible homes in the more vulnerable regions that suffer most when extreme rainfall events occur and most of them would need lessons in awareness as well as help from the local administration to batten down safely to get past extreme weather events.

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