Cyclone Biparjoy: A Success Story of Community Resilience

Sub Title : Cyclone Biparjoy could have been catastrophic, but for the timely and effective response by the entire machinery led by the PM, HM and NDMA resulting in minimum damage and loss

Issues Details : Vol 17 Issue 4 Sep – Oct 2023

Author : Rajendra Ratnoo, ED NIDM

Page No. : 45

Category : Military Affairs

: September 22, 2023

This article offers a brief overview of the complex tale of the Biparjoy Cyclone. The authors are excited to announce an upcoming, more in-depth analysis on this subject. Their soon-to-be-released book provides a comprehensive study, probing deep into the multifarious effects and facets of the cyclone’s influence. Keep an eye out for the official launch date of the book dedicated to the Biparjoy Cyclone.

The article delves into the management of “Cyclone Biparjoy” (pronounced Biporjoy, derived from the Bengali term for “disaster”), which struck Gujarat, India. Originating from the Arabian Sea, this cyclone posed significant challenges to Gujarat, given its expansive coastline, growing population density, substantial industrial investments, extensive infrastructure, and its geographically vulnerable position. Thanks to coordinated efforts by the community, public representatives, administrative officials, disaster management authorities, and various departments, the region achieved the commendable outcome of zero casualties during the cyclone’s impact

Cyclone Biparjoy 2023

Gujarat, the vibrant state on the west coast of India, is highly vulnerable to cyclones and its associated secondary hazards such as floods, storm surges, etc. The Cyclone Biparjoy originated from a low-pressure area that was first noted and reported by the India Meteorological Department (IMD) on 5th June 2023, before intensifying into a cyclone. IMD alerted the west coast states about the cyclone from 6th June onwards with low pressure area becoming a depression on 6th June early morning. It had peak intensity of about 170 kilometers per hour and gusts up to 190 kilometers per hour during its life period and 115 to 125 kmph gusting to 140 kmph at the time of landfall. It had an unusually long lifespan of 13 days and 3 hours. The cyclone’s path frequently changed, mainly influenced by the strength of anticyclones over central India and the Arabian Peninsula. Biparjoy covered an extensive track of 2,526 km from its genesis to depression stage. It displayed rapid intensification during its formation on June 6th and 7th, reaching its peak intensity with sustained winds of 160-170 kmph, gusting up to 190 kmph on June 11th and maintaining this intensity until June 12th. Cyclone Biparjoy wreaked havoc, leading to widespread flooding, storm surges, considerable infrastructure damage, and disruptions in day-to-day life. The heavy to extremely heavy rainfall nearly equalled the annual average for the Kachchh district. Other districts too faced intense and localized downpours.

Despite the cyclone’s unpredictable nature, its path, landing site, and intensity were closely tracked and forecasted with precision. A comprehensive communication strategy ensured the timely relay of meteorological data related to Cyclone Biparjoy to all relevant parties. Figure 1 illustrates the districts impacted by the cyclone. The hardest-hit districts included Kachchh, Junagadh, Jamnagar, Porbandar, Devbhumi Dwarka, Gir Somnath, Morbi, and Rajkot.

Coordination, Preparedness, Protection and Pre-positioning

On receipt of the alerts from IMD at the central level, a high-level meeting of the National Executive Committee was called by the Union Home Secretary on Sunday, 11th June 2023, to review the preparedness in the face of cyclone Biparjoy and ensure a coordinated response. The very next day, the Cabinet Secretary convened a meeting of the National Crisis Management Committee to review the preparedness of the Government of Gujarat and central ministries/agencies in the face of the impending cyclone.

The Hon’ble Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, called a meeting on Monday, 12th June 2023, with Home Minister, Principal Secretary to PM, Cabinet Secretary and other senior officers to review the preparedness of Ministries/Agencies of Centre as well as state of Gujarat to deal with the situation arising out of the impending Cyclone Biparjoy. The Prime Minister underscored the need for a concerted effort to achieve “Zero Casualty” and minimize potential damage caused by Cyclone Biparjoy including the livestock and wild life.

The Minister of Home Affairs and Minister of Cooperation, Shri Amit Shah, took up a meeting through video conference on 13th June 2023 with the Chief Minister of Gujarat state, state level authorities, district collectors and the concerned central agencies to guide and motivate them to achieve the goal of zero casualty during the cyclone with pre-emptive, coordinated and collaborative efforts as a team. On 14th June 2023, the National Disaster Management Authority shared the preparedness and response measures to be taken during the cyclone with different stakeholders including concerned ministries and line departments. It recommended immediate establishment of a Unified Command as per Incident Response System.

NDRF teams were prepositioned at vulnerable locations. At the state level, State Emergency Operation Centre (SEOC) was activated under the directions of the Additional Chief Secretary, Revenue & Disaster Management, and Government of Gujarat. SEOC coordinated the pre-emptive efforts of the districts for pre-positioning and deployment of the human as well as physical resources. The Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority (GSDMA) disseminated the early warning messages as well as requisite action messages through different media platforms like electronic media (TV, radio and cable channels), print media, social media etc.  The State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), Police, Fire and Emergency teams along with the Aapda Mitra and Health professionals were prepositioned for efficient response during disaster situation. The administration deployed HAM radio, satellite phones, and wireless communication systems to ensure uninterrupted communications. The teachers from the education department were deputed at the District Emergency Operation Centre (DEOC) to cater to the calls from the affected population. The Department of Telecom provided Priority Call Services and advised various Telecom Service Providers like BSNL, Jio, Vodafone, Airtel etc. to enable Intra Circle Roaming facility in the affected area, allowing users to manually switch to another telecom operators in case of no service or temporary interruptions in their subscribed network.

The Ministry of Power along with the various power transmission & distribution entities like POWERGRID, GETCO and PGVCL etc., ensured that there should be minimal chances of failure of power supply. They made adequate pre-emptive arrangements of necessary skilled human and physical resources for quick restoration of power supply. Water supply pumps were also supported with the power generators to cater to the water requirements.

The district administration held the coordination meetings with the functionaries of different line departments and made teams to work together to achieve the goal of zero casualty during the cyclone as per the directions given by the Hon’ble Prime Minister on 12th June and Hon’ble Minister of Home Affairs &Minister of Cooperation on 13th June 2023. A total of 1,43,053 persons (includes salt pan workers) were evacuated and sheltered in the community buildings, schools and Multi-Purpose Cyclone Shelters (MPCS).

Out of the evacuated 1,152 pregnant women, 828 safe deliveries of new born babies were carried out successfully by the health department in the PHCs, CHCs, SDHs and DHs. A wave of happiness seems to have gone through the lives of the parents of the new born babies. As an emotional gesture, one of the new born babies was named as “Khushi” by the parents.

It may be worthwhile to mention that the evacuees were provided with freshly cooked food, water and other basic amenities for survival during the stay at the shelters with the help of community kitchen, NGO and Corporates. Special care was given to the children who required milk and other such items. The milk cooperatives ensured the adequate supply for them. The corporates also distributed the food kits to the evacuees at the time of the return to their homes after the cyclone, for their survival during the first 4-5 days.

The state transport department stopped the public transport services prior to the cyclone and the tourism department announced through the media for inhibiting the visits of tourists, pilgrims and visitors. The pilgrimage attractions including the Somnath and Dwarkadhish Temples besides the attractive beaches along the coast, were closed. The railways stopped, short terminated or short originated the trains to the affected areas. Similarly, the airport authorities of Bhuj & Rajkot airports suspended their operations. The shipping authorities also issued directions to the ships and the vessels to move into deep seas and keep away from the coast while the boats of the fishermen shifted to safe location and tied together to minimize the damage.

The agriculture, horticulture and animal husbandry departments took due care of the farmers. The livestock were evacuated safely to community cattle sheds and kept untied. These communities’ cattle sheds were provided with adequate fodder and water supply arrangements for the survival of the livestock.

Response, Relief and Restoration 

Proactive pre-positioning and mobilization of resources, from community volunteers and government entities to medical teams, combined with synchronized efforts across various response hierarchies, ensured swift search, rescue, and relief operations in the wake of Cyclone Biparjoy. A multitude of forces and organizations came together to render immediate aid to affected communities and revitalize essential infrastructure. The first wave of response for Cyclone Biparjoy was championed by the impacted communities, local grassroots volunteers, NGOs such as Swami Narayan Trust and Akshaya Patra Foundation, and AapdaMitra volunteers. Collectively, they took charge of search, rescue, and relief missions. Notably, 383 AapdaMitra volunteers stood out as primary responders. This grassroots initiative was bolstered by secondary support units, including the NDRF, Defence forces, SDRF, State Police, and Fire and Emergency personnel. These entities played an instrumental role in specialized rescue missions, offering medical aid, logistical backing, and bridging the gap between the local communities and higher authorities during the cyclonic event.

Relief efforts require the synchronized endeavours of governmental bodies, NGOs, and community volunteers. Together, they offer immediate aid and essential services to impacted communities, fortifying resilience during crises. Funding for such endeavours typically flows from the State Disaster Relief Fund (SDRF), which, in this case, received additional support from the Government of Gujarat. Once the cyclone’s fury abated, the specialized workforce from various sectors leaped into action, working relentlessly and expertly to mend the infrastructural lifelines that the cyclone had disrupted.

On June 17, 2023 (Figure 4), Shri Amit Shah, Minister of Home Affairs and Minister of Cooperation, conducted an aerial survey of cyclone-affected areas in Gujarat, visiting villages, meeting with farmers and their families, commending the NDRF Jawans for their response, and inspecting facilities at a Primary Health Centre where villagers were sheltered.