Preparing for Amphan

Few hours after cyclone Amphan made landfall in West Bengal, images of the scale of destruction are appearing with streets blocked from uprooted trees, falling electricity and telecommunications poles and thousands of people evacuated.

As of last night, besides some moderate rainfall, there is no impact on Bhutan, which also lies in the path of the now downgraded to “extremely severe” cyclone. But we should not take comfort in that. Experts watching the storm closely are saying that the worst is not over.

A lot of things could change if strong winds and heavy rain starts to, as forecast, pound us from today. The forecast for strong winds and heavy rains is until Friday.

At the moment what we can do is staying safe. The best way of doing that is listening to authorities and experts who are assessing and following the developments. Officials from the disaster management department, the hydrology and meteorology centre, on the command of His Majesty had already explained what the cyclone could bring to the country.

Perhaps learning from the Covid-19 pandemic, we are more prepared and by the time the first drop of rain fell, most of the people are warned or briefed about the impending disaster.  Dzongkhag, thromde, gewog, the armed force and many more are called to inform the people. We are all better prepared in terms of information.

We can ensure our safety by cooperating. We are already experiencing fluctuation in internet connections. When it is storm or cyclone, the first to fall is communication infrastructure. If internet is disrupted in West Bengal, we will be affected. Without communication, people will panic. Hopefully the emergency communication we planned for disasters would come to the rescue.

As of last night, apart from few drains blocked, there are no reports of roadblocks or water level increasing or flash floods. But that does not mean that the danger is over. From experience, we know that Bhutanese are quite relaxed even during disasters. If there is a flash flood, police and other on duty to assess damage or help those affected are kept busy dispersing unwanted crowds flocking to witness. Then there are others who even come to try their luck for trout.

And then the civic support that is needed goes begging during disasters. At most disaster scenes, large crowd of ineffective audience compound the problems by blocking traffic or rescue efforts. Hopefully, even as we brace for the impact of Amphan, our lessons from past disasters would help us see through another disaster. Many deliberately venture out to become unwanted eyewitnesses during disasters.

During disaster, it is not always the storm or the earthquake, for instance that kills people. It is the falling building or a tree uprooted that kills. The first two casualties in Kolkata was a woman who died after a tree fell on her and the other, a girl who died after she was hit by a flying zinc sheet. Staying home could prevent this kind of unfortunate incidents.

As of now we can only hope and pray besides listening to experts and authorities who know how to see through a disaster with the minimum damage.

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