Role of early warning dissemination at community level: Lessons from Gujarat (India) cyclone of June 1998
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A devastating cyclone struck the coastal state of Gujarat in western India on June 9, 1998. It killed 3,500 people, damaged 200,000 houses and resulted in losses worth over 700 million dollars. The cyclone had been forecasted more than two days in advance, and adequate warning time had been available. However, it did not reach the community level. Hence, precious lives were lost because fishermen ventured out to sea, and workers in salt pans and in dock areas continued with routine work. The damage from the cyclone could have been greatly reduced if the warning had reached the people who were most vulnerable.
The fact that disasters of such magnitude are not very frequent in this part of the country resulted in the failure of an efficient performance by the warning relay machinery. There were no proper channels for the warning to reach the community.
The author is leading a documentation project on the cyclone, and in his paper highlights the critical interface between the technological aspects of early forecasting and warnings, and the community communication systems.