Cyclones (Disaster Management)

Last Updated: July 2023 (Cyclones (Disaster Management))

Cyclones (Disaster Management)

This article deals with ‘Cyclones (Disaster Management).’ This is part of our series on ‘Disaster Management’, an important pillar of the GS-3 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.


Cyclones (Disaster Management)
  • With its vast coastline spanning approximately 7,500 kilometres, India is frequently affected by cyclones. The country experiences a significant share of the world’s tropical cyclones, accounting for nearly 10% of the global total.
  • The east coast of India is more susceptible to cyclones compared to the west coast. The Bay of Bengal, adjacent to the east coast, acts as a breeding ground for cyclones due to its warm waters and favourable atmospheric conditions. Hence, states such as Andhra Pradesh (AP), Odisha, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, and the union territory of Puducherry, located along the east coast, face a higher risk of cyclonic activity. 
  • The west coast of India, although generally less prone to cyclones, also has its vulnerable areas. Gujarat is considered the most susceptible state on the west coast. The Arabian Sea, which borders the western region, can occasionally witness cyclonic disturbances threatening Gujarat and its coastal areas. 
Cyclone Prone Regions in India

Case Study: Super Cyclone (1999) vs Cyclone Phailin (2013)

The Super Cyclone and Phailin Cyclone case studies show the importance of preparedness.

Super Cyclone (Odisha, 1999) 

  • Wind speeds of 270-300 km per hour  
  •  10,000 people killed and lakhs of livestock population. 
  • Over 2 million houses were damaged.

But this damage could have easily been reduced.

Cyclone Phailin (2013)

  • Early Warnings were given to residents near Bhubaneshwar about an impending Cyclone which struck within a week 
  • Casualties were just 50 people dead 

Recent Cyclone Varda in Tamil Nadu & Cyclone Hudhood also showed a similar trend with a death toll not exceeding 10. But the damage to infrastructure is still high. Now reaching the next level, the concern is how to address losses occurring to property – roads, bridges, housing, hospitals, electricity etc. (Note: Sendai calls for a reduction in mortality and the destruction of infrastructure).

Impact of Cyclones

  • Human loss: Cyclones can have a devastating impact on human lives, leading to loss of life, injuries, and displacement. In India, the 1999 Super Cyclone (Odisha) caused over 10,000 deaths and affected millions of people. 
  • Economic Impact: Cyclones can cause significant economic losses. For instance, Cyclone Amphan, which hit India and Bangladesh in 2020, caused an estimated economic loss of around $13 billion. 
  • Loss of Livelihood: Coastal communities often bear the brunt of cyclones. In India, the communities dependent on fishing face severe challenges during cyclones. For example, in the aftermath of Cyclone Phailin in 2013, fishing was prohibited in coastal areas of Odisha, impacting the livelihoods of thousands of fishermen and their families. They lost access to food and clean drinking water and suffered from a loss of income.
  • Structural Damage: Cyclones can cause extensive damage to infrastructure, including roads, bridges, buildings, and other public facilities. Hurricane Katrina, 2005 in the United States, is a notable example of the significant structural damage caused by a cyclone.
  • Floods: Cyclones often bring heavy rainfall, leading to widespread flooding. It can result in the displacement of communities, damage to homes and infrastructure, and the spread of waterborne diseases.
  • Agricultural Damage: Cyclones can have a detrimental impact on agriculture, causing the destruction of crops and farmland. Cyclone Nargis, which struck Myanmar in 2008, caused extensive damage to the country’s agriculture sector, resulting in food shortages and increased vulnerability for the population.

Plan to tackle Cyclones

Disaster Risk Reduction (Before Cyclones)

  • Cyclone Disaster Management Plan: Develop an effective Cyclone Disaster Management Plan by analyzing historical data and conducting risk assessments.
  • Invest in Early Warning Systems: Enhance meteorological capabilities by investing in advanced technologies such as Doppler radar for accurate cyclone forecasting and warning services.
  • Cyclone Shelters: Identify vulnerable areas prone to cyclones and construct cyclone shelters equipped with necessary facilities to accommodate affected populations.
  • Maintain a fleet of machinery and vehicles ready for immediate deployment to assist in evacuating people to safer areas.
  • Mock Drills: Organize regular mock drills and training programs to educate and prepare the community for cyclone emergencies.

Disaster Response (During Cyclones)

  • Rapid dissemination of warnings: Government should disseminate the warning to the ports, fisheries, shipping agencies, and the general public to give time to these stakeholders to act.
  • Rapid Evacuation: Activate State Administration, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), and Army personnel for swift evacuation operations, ensuring community participation and engagement.
  • Keep on providing the latest developments: Utilize various communication channels, with a special emphasis on radio broadcasting, to provide the latest and authenticated information regarding the cyclone, safety measures, and relief efforts.

Recovery and Rehabilitation (After Cyclones)

  • Build Back Better: Implement the “Build Back Better” principle by constructing houses, roads, and other infrastructure that are designed to withstand future cyclones and mitigate the impact of such disasters.
  • Rehabilitation: Provide necessary support for livelihood restoration, including financial assistance, vocational training, and employment opportunities, to help communities recover and rebuild their lives.

Side Note: Cyclone Shelters

One of the most successful ways of reducing the loss of human lives during cyclones is the provision of cyclone shelters. These buildings can be so designed so as to provide a blank façade with a minimum number of apertures in the direction of prevailing winds. The shorter side of the building should face the storm to impart the least wind resistance.

Indian Cyclone Early Warning System

  • The Indian Cyclone Early Warning System is an advanced meteorological system managed by the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS), which operates under the Ministry of Earth Sciences. 
  • The Indian Cyclone Early Warning System relies on the Doppler Effect to effectively detect and track cyclonic storms.
  • India has already installed 6 Doppler Radars on the East Coast, which is more vulnerable to the Cyclones.

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