Cyclone Fani
Regular updates were sent to officials in Andhra and Odisha every few hours by RTGS, so that necessary action could be taken.

Praise has been pouring in for the disaster management authorities in Odisha for effectively minimising casualties during Cyclone Fani by carefully evacuating nearly a million people to safety. While repeated cyclones and floods in the past have prepared the state to deal with disasters, this time, the Odisha government has thanked the Andhra Pradesh government’s Real Time Governance Society (RTGS) for sending accurate and timely forecasts and alerts to officials in Odisha, which helped them in carrying out their evacuation plans.

According to RTGS officials, Odisha government officials conveyed their appreciation for the RTGS’ support to Andhra Pradesh Chief Secretary L V Subrahmanyam. Speaking to TNM, RTGS Director Ananth Krishnan said, “We had been tracking the cyclone ever since a low-pressure area was formed in the Bay of Bengal. The behaviour of the cyclone has been very eccentric. It kept changing its course. At first it looked like it would make landfall along the southern coast of Andhra, near Nellore. When it started to move towards the north, we predicted landfall south of Puri and immediately intimated our counterparts in Odisha. A WhatsApp group was created which included the Odisha Chief Secretary and the District Collectors of those districts which were expected to be affected by Fani in Odisha and Andhra. Regular updates were sent to these officials every few hours, so they could take necessary action.”

A team of about 65 members, including agrometeorologists (study of weather to increase crop production), hydrologists and oceanographers had been working on tracking the cyclone continuously over the past few days. The RTGS claims to have an advanced mechanism which helped them make accurate predictions regarding the direction and speed of the cyclone, and exact location of landfall. “We are working in partnership with ISRO. We use a method of advanced ensemble modelling, using more than 50 models, to get information which is more accurate. We use these models to predict wind velocity and pressure, the exact location and direction of the cyclone, its distance from the coast etc.,” said Krishnan.

RTGS scientists working in its AWARE division (AP Weather Forecasting and Early Disaster Warning) are said to have played a key role in making crucial predictions about the scale and location of Fani’s impact, which has helped district officials in taking appropriate safety measures. Apart from volunteers and emergency workers, the Odisha government has reportedly used text messages, television announcements and public address systems to inform people about the cyclone and instructing them to move to safer places. In Andhra Pradesh, the RTGS made automated IVRS calls to around 14 lakh citizens and 89,000 vehicle owners across Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and Vishakhapatnam districts to prepare them for the cyclone’s impact.

“In Andhra, we started sending alerts to the public whenever it was essential. We sent messages to district officials to inform farmers to complete their harvest earlier if possible and store their grain in a safe place. We warned fishermen to not go out into the sea. Last year during Cyclone Titli, many heavy vehicles and container trucks had been stranded. To avoid that from happening again, we sent out messages to owners of such vehicles to avoid going out,” Krishnan said. He added that Intra Circle Roaming (ICR) was implemented in affected mandals in Andhra by coordinating with mobile service providers, so that mobile network is not interrupted due to heavy wind and rain. RTGS had also recommended using ICR to their counterparts in Odisha. According to Krishnan, the RTGS’ helpline 1100 has been widely used by the people of affected areas in Andhra for information regarding the cyclone.

AP Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu also appreciated the work done the RTGS. He tweeted on Friday saying, “I am glad that the Odisha government has credited the RTGS for providing information regarding Cyclone Fani which helped them take precautionary measures.” He also offered the services of RTGS and the 1100 call centre to the Odisha government, adding that he would deploy 2,000 workers for relief efforts in the state.