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Last Updated : May 19, 2020 07:40 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

Double whammy: Social distancing amid coronavirus lockdown makes Cyclone Amphan evacuation more complex

As far as cyclone shelters are concerned, of the nearly 800 shelters in 12 vulnerable districts, over 240 are being used as temporary medical centres to quarantine incoming migrants. As many as 47,725 people have been quarantined in these centres.

Representative image
Representative image

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has brought the nation to a grinding halt, another calamity stares at the eastern coast of India.

The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has alerted Odisha and West Bengal that Cyclone Amphan is expected to make landfall on May 20, and has the potential of causing extensive damage to the coastal districts of the two states.

As different agencies have taken up the task of evacuating people in vulnerable districts, they face the imminent hurdle of breaching social distancing guidelines mandated by the government to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

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Though Odisha has experience in evacuating people ahead of an approaching cyclone, the task is more complex this time owing to social distancing norms, and the conversion of cyclone shelters into quarantine facilities for migrants returning home from other state, The Times of India has reported.

Inspector General of Police Asheet Panigrahi told the newspaper, “We are alert to the dual worry – COVID-19 and Amphan – and realise the danger of the breach of social distancing norms. Since zero-casualty is our motto, our immediate priority will be to evacuate and rescue people from vulnerable locations to safe places.”

The Naveen Patnaik-led government in Odisha has asked the Collectors of Balasore, Bhadrak, Kendrapada and Jagatsinghpur to evacuate all people living in low-lying areas or in living in kutcha houses with thatched or asbestos roofs.

Click here to follow LIVE updates on Cyclone Amphan

As far as cyclone shelters are concerned, of the nearly 800 shelters in 12 vulnerable districts, over 240 are being used as temporary medical centres to quarantine incoming migrants. As many as 47,725 people have been quarantined in these centres.

However, in view of the cyclone, the state government has sent more than 11,500 people back home, asking them to remain in isolation, after their samples tested negative for the novel coronavirus. As a result, 44 shelters have been vacated. The remaining 36,200 have been housed in 198 shelters, making about 600 shelters ready for cyclone relief.

However, government officers are wary of enforcing social distancing norms in cyclone shelters which will house evacuees from vulnerable districts.

“We normally keep 300-400 persons in a cyclone shelter. If we follow social distancing norms now, each shelter will not be able to accommodate more than 100 people. Since lakhs of people are being evacuated, we will need more shelter units. We will have to compromise social distancing norms while handling the large number of evacuees,” an officer told the newspaper.

Meanwhile, the government has urged people to wear masks and use sanitisers during the evacuation process, as well as asked the rescue personnel to use body protectors, face shields, masks and other PPE equipments while carrying out rescue work.

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First Published on May 19, 2020 07:40 pm
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