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Pull No Punches: Yaas could worsen Odisha’s health woes

27/05/2021 at 7:54 PM

By Srimoy Kar

Cyclone Yaas has blown over, leaving behind a trail of devastation especially in the northern districts of Balasore, Bhadrak and Mayurbhanj. Mercifully, the impact was much less than what was anticipated. But, that should not be considered as a reprieve because the challenge before the state government post cyclone is enormous.

Odisha’s frequent trysts with tropical storms, that are of late almost an annual affair, have helped the state put in place a well oiled disaster management apparatus that has earned national and international praise for its deft handling of cyclone preparedness, post disaster restoration and rehabilitation. This time too, the state government mounted a massive effort, deploying its top officers, cautioning people and evacuating nearly 600,000 of them from vulnerable areas as it used all its experience to ensure zero casualty, a mantra chief minister Naveen Patnaik has always laid emphasis on. The measures have indeed mitigated the impact of the cyclone.

 It is a different matter that over 130 villages in affected districts have been marooned in saline water because of sea water ingression, an adverse event beyond  any body’s control. While the state government has crossed the first hurdle, what is worrisome is the double challenge’ it is presently confronted with:  to ensure early restoration and also keep the spread of covid under a tight leash in the affected districts.

However, the disruption caused by Yaas and huddling of large numbers of people in cyclone shelters where the protocol of social distancing had to be compromised, have triggered fears of new corona virus clusters in the coming weeks. One can only hope that cases do not surge and further burden the state’s already overwhelmed health facilities. Any spike in the Covid caseload would be a daunting challenge for the Naveen Patnaik administration which has to contend with the twin disasters with severely strained resources.

Reconstruction work in the impacted areas will need to be undertaken on a war footing. Road communication and power lines have snapped in many of the impacted areas. Putting them back in place urgently will be a priority for the government because most of the medical facilities are also heavily dependent on infrastructure.

With water logging, flash floods and lack of food and dwelling houses set to throw up fresh medical challenges and add to the Corona menace in the storm ravaged areas, health will remain the focus of the government’s concerns. Can the state administration attend to these problems with the present medical infrastructure? While one is sure that war room managers would already have drawn up action plans to meet and overcome eventualities, it would require close monitoring, effective and timely implementation of the plans for the state to leave the scars of Yaas behind and forge ahead to deal with the Corona crisis that has so far shown no signs of relenting.

The author is former Resident Editor of New Indian Express. He can be contacted at srimoykar@yahoo.com

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with Prameya News)


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