Even as I am writing this post, the skies have darkened, and the rain has started, characteristic of the outer peripheral disc of the cyclone edging closed to Kolkata. The tropical cyclone named ‘Fani’ pronounced as ‘Foni’ was suggested by Bangladesh and means the ‘hood of snake’.
The severest cyclone in the last 20 years, is in the path of coastal Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, directly over the temple-town Puri and parts of West Bengal, that could cross 200 Kms. windspeed, fearing widespread damages along its route.
Several thousand people routinely used to be affected, killed, maimed or impoverished by cyclones both in coastal India and Bangladesh. The 1979 Bhola cyclone killed 300,000 in Bangladesh, then East Pakistan. The 1991 Bangladesh cyclone, which struck Chittagong with wind speeds of 250 Kms. left 138866 dead and caused damages worth $1.7 Bn, that the country being poorer as compared to now. An equally intense cyclone hit Odisha in 1999 when 10000 people died, and damages of $4.4 billion caused. In the case of cyclone Hudhud, which hit in October 2014 with the highest wind speed of 261 Kms., fatalities could be restricted to just 214!
While the destruction to properties cannot be wholly avoided in the wake of nature’s fury, technology, especially weather monitoring satellites have come in great help in saving human lives. 100 million people are in the path of cyclone Foni, and the more than 1 million from the vulnerable areas have been moved to safety. While ancient calculations could predict the movement of planets and eclipses, vagaries of weather, which are partly or entirely man-made can only be foreseen by technology. The merits of science thus can never be challenged as a threat to traditional knowledge.
I wish and pray that the cyclone passes, weakening after the landfall, without causing much damage to lives and property. Above all, I hope that all parties, ruling and opposition, National and regional, avoid political clamour claiming credit from assistance provided to affected people, in the unlikely event of any disaster, and amid a heated poll season.