Sometimes, disasters can have a positive impact on the way governments function. In 2004, an earthquake triggered a series of tsunamis along coasts bordering the Indian Ocean, killing over 200,000 people in 14 countries. Yesterday, minutes after a similar alert sounded, the Government of India swung into action in a manner that can only be described as impressive.
Reports of a quake measuring 8.9 on the Richter scale, off the coast of Indonesia’s Aceh province, first appeared a little after 2 pm. Half an hour later, the tsunami centre in Hyderabad issued a notice for the evacuation of beaches.
The Kolkata metro was stopped. Some 20 minutes later, ships anchored off the coast of Nicobar were asked to move to the high seas following an alert issued for 28 countries.
By 4 pm, beaches and ports in Tamil Nadu were being evacuated as a precautionary measure and fishermen were asked not to venture into the sea. Andhra Pradesh issued a warning and the Andaman and Nicobar joint command was alerted. Union Home Secretary R K Singh issued a statement asking the public not to panic, adding that the government was ready to deal with any eventuality.
The Indian Navy and air force put warships and aircraft on a state of high alert for carrying out relief and rescue operations in the event of any untoward situation.
Two C-130J Hercules aircraft were put on ‘hot stand-by mode’ and all warships deployed in Port Blair were sailed out from the anchorage. The only sour note was the lack of updates on government websites, which, one assumes, is where most people would turn to for official reports.
Blaming the bureaucracy for its slow response to most things is all in a day’s work for the media. To have something nice to say is refreshing.