Disaster preparedness is key

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  • An ‘extremely severe’ cyclone, Fani, made landfall in Odisha, India yesterday. Faced with the most extreme weather system in the last two decades, the Indian authorities evacuated over a million people to safety and kept rapid response teams on standby to aid rescue efforts.
    The authorities in Odisha, which is perhaps India’s most disaster-ready state with developing manpower, infrastructure, and skill sets for disaster preparedness, have managed to restrict fatalities to low single digits.
    Fani brought back memories of another cyclonic storm, Nargis, which struck the Ayeyawady Delta in 2008. Nargis caused severe and widespread damage in the towns and villages of the southern Ayeyawady Delta and the commercial city of Yangon.
    Taking lessons from Nargis, the local authorities in the Ayeyawady Delta have constructed many cyclone shelters and disaster preparedness teams are on the alert to quickly respond to possible disasters today.
    The increased occurrence of natural disasters can have a huge destructive impact. The country has faced changes not encountered in the past, and even more upheavals are expected in the future.
    Despite the decreasing temperature these days due to Fani, we are not out of the woods yet. Isolated heavy rain caused by the storm can lead to flash floods and landslides in hilly areas.
    The summer season has not yet ended, and the temperature is expected to increase again.
    Floods and landslides are not new to Myanmar in the rainy season.
    As disasters are expected to become more regular and can affect all people, without discrimination, the public has an obligation to respond to them. With extreme weather phenomena increasing due to climate change, there’s a need to constantly expand disaster management capacities.
    While disaster preparedness must begin at the level of the general public, the ministries, region, and state governments must take the leading role in all such efforts to reduce losses.
    The recent storm underscores the fact that the local people and the authorities must remain alert to disasters during the rainy season.
    We must keep a close watch on weather updates and warnings. It pays to be prepared all the time. Preparedness remains our best weapon against the worsening climate conditions.
    We must take heed of warnings to prevent deaths this year and in future rainy seasons.
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