Rajkanika Tornado Disaster Management, 31st March, 2009

A tornado accompanied with wind speed of about 250 kmph, thunderstorm, rainfall and hailstorm affected Rajkanika Block of Kendrapara district at about 4.40 pm on 31st March, 2009. 15 human lives were lost and several persons were injured. 10 villages of Rajkanika Block i.e. Barada, Badatala, Asasa, Baghabuda, Govindpur, Kantapada, (Rajkanika Block Headquarters), Ganja, Achutapur, Mukundpur, Manaidiha, Dasagharia, Mangalpur and Dalikainda were severely affected. Thousands of huge trees were uprooted and a number of houses were damaged.
As per the synoptic, climatological and thermodynamic analysis of the tornado by India Meteorological Department (IMD), the salient features of the tornado are as follows:
(i)          It was embedded in a thunder squall line.

(ii)        According to Doppler weather radar (DWR), Kolkata, the convective cloud cluster moved from north-northwest to south-southeast during its genesis, growth and maturation stages like a Nor’wester. It is almost supported by the orientation of the area affected by the tornado.

(iii)       The maximum surface wind speed was about 250 kmph.

(iv)       The convection developed after 1430 hrs IST and dissipated over the sea by 1730 hrs IST with a life period of less than three hours. The tornado survived for about 10 minutes, hitting ground at 1640 hrs IST, according to eye witnesses.

Visual appearance
            The eye witness account says that the sky was overcast with tall and black cloud mass near Ostia village. Around 1640 hrs IST, the sky became red with roaring sound coming from that village. Prior to the touch down, the tornado looked reddish in its bottom layer.  
 Accoustic Phenomena
            According to the personal experiences of the people from affected area, an unusual roaring sound was observed by the time the tornado crossed the villages. The explosive sound heard by this time indicated that the pressure gradient within the funnel cloud was the maximum during the touch down.
 Associated weather
            Light intermittent rainfall occurred at some places, like Chandbali to the north of the tornado site before the storm. As soon as the tornado passed over the area, moderate to heavy hail storm occurred over the area which was accompanied by rain/showers for about one hour. Hail stones were of marble size in general and in some places they were large in size. So the approximate diameter of the hail stones was less than 2 cm and in some places their diameter ranged from 2-5 cm. Afterwards, the intermittent rain with light to moderate intensity continued till evening (1800 hrs).
            In the approaching funnel cloud, a very bright red colour was observed upto a height of 50-100 meters above ground. It looked peculiarly reddish at the touch down point. Immediately after the touch down, continuous heavy lightning and thunder started hitting the area for about an hour and intermittent lightning persisted till evening.
The analysis of current weather observations from Meteorological Office, Chandbali indicated that the cumulonimbus cloud developed to the south of Chandbali at about 1600 hrs IST. The first thunder was heard at 1605 hrs IST and continued till 1820 hrs IST. The rainfall started at Chandbali at 1630 hrs IST and continued till 1800 hrs IST. The hailstorm commenced over the station at 1640 hrs IST and continued till 1750 hrs IST. Chandbali reported 41.0 mm of rainfall and hail stones with diameter of about 3 cm.
            Such was the force of the tornado that loaded tractors and vehicles were lifted in to the air and dashed against trees 50 feet away. Almost all the slope-roofed houses along the path of the tornado were damaged. Even many of the pucca buildings were also damaged substantially. The fish from the local ponds were sucked into the sky along with the water and scattered over the area. A number of electric poles were twisted. As per the IMD sources, it was one of the 6 severest twisters that had hit the country.
Response

At about 7.00 pm under the direction of Sri Nikunja K Sundaray, Special Relief Commissioner and Managing Director, OSDMA a team of officers headed by Additional Commissioner, Relief and the Executive Director, OSDMA was deputed to Rajkanika to facilitate clearance of relief lines and conduct relief operations. The Orissa Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF) unit of Cuttack was rushed to the spot along with the emergency equipment like inflatable tower lights, tree cutters, tree pruners, hydraulic cutters and combitools and other search and rescue equipment. The ODRAF units were divided into 3 separate teams and set to clear three major arterial roads leading to Rajkanika with a view to facilitating carrying of relief materials and essential commodities to the disaster affected areas.

The members of the village disaster management committees, the task force members and the community members extended their whole hearted cooperation to the ODRAF personnel and officers of SRC and OSDMA in clearing the roads. The road clearance was conducted  through out the night and the three major arterial roads were cleared by the day break.
Medical attention
The injured persons were shifted to different hospital of the district and the severely injured persons were shifted to SCB Medical College and Hospital, Cuttack for treatment. Collector, Cuttack was asked to provide all possible assistance to the Superintendent of SCB Medical College for treatment of the injured persons.
Temporary Shelter
The temporary shelter materials stored at the district headquarters was rushed to the tornado affected area. Additional supplies of temporary shelter materials including polythene sheets and tents were mobilized from Cuttack to provide shelter to the homeless persons.
Food Assistance
            In view of the severity of the disaster, emergent relief for 15 days was announced by the Government by 8.00 pm on the day of occurrence of the disaster. Revenue Divisional Commissioner (Central Division) was deputed for monitoring the relief and rehabilitation operations. Since the model code of conduct was in force for the general elections 2009, the matter was brought to the notice of Chief Electoral Officer, Orissa to obtain permission of the Election Commission of India for continuing relief operations. In addition to the provision of dry food like flattened rice, jaggery and biscuits; free kitchen was opened for providing cooked food to the tornado affected people from the morning of the next day of the tornado.
 Ex- gratia Assistance
            The entitlements of the tornado affected people such as ex-gratia assistance to the next of the kins of the deceased, house building assistance and emergent relief   as per the norms of the Calamity Relief Fund (CRF) were made available in the record possible time. The disaster of rare severity was handled with the active support and collaboration of the community, the district administration and non-government organisations.