As many as 117 cyclones hit India in 50 years from 1970-2019 claiming over 40,000 lives, according to a study on extreme weather events, which also states the mortality rate due to tropical cyclones has come down significantly over the past 10 years. A total of 7,063 extreme weather events killed 1,41,308 people during the period in the country, which included 40,358 (or 28 per cent) due to cyclones and 65,130 (a little over 46 per cent) due to floods, the study says.
The research paper published earlier this year has been authored by M Rajeevan, Secretary of Ministry of Earth Sciences, along with scientists Kamaljit Ray, S S Ray, R K Giri and A P Dimri. Kamaljit Ray is the lead author of the paper.
Earlier this month, the western coast witnessed the fury of Cyclone Tauktae which hit the Gujarat coast as an extremely severe cyclonic storm, leaving a trail of destruction in several states killing nearly 50 people.
Currently, the eastern part of the country in facing 'very severe cyclonic storm' Yaas which battered the Odisha and West Bengal coasts on Wednesday before moving deeper into the country. The study states that the number of deaths due to cyclones has come down significantly in the last two decades, whose latter years have witnessed much improvement in the IMD's weather forecast abilities. In 1971, the study said, four tropical cyclones developed in the Bay of Bengal within a period of about six weeks — from the end of September to the first week of November.
Of these, the most destructive one struck the Odisha coast on the early morning of October 30, 1971 and caused very severe damage to life and property, according to the study. About 10,000 people were reported to have lost their lives, and more than one million rendered homeless, it said.
In 1977, two tropical cyclones developed over the Bay of Bengal during November 9-20, out of which the second one (Chirala cyclone) which was a very severe tropical cyclone with a wind speed of the order of 200 kilometres per hour along with tidal waves 5 metres high, hit coastal Andhra Pradesh, the study says.
The estimated mortalities were around 10,000 and total damage to infrastructure and crops was more than USD 25 million. The decade from 1970-1980 alone recorded over 20,000 mortalities due to cyclones.
“Overall, the analysis showed that the mortality rate associated with tropical cyclones decreased by almost 88 per cent in the last decade (2010–2019) in comparison to the earlier decade (2000–2009) despite the significant increasing trend of severe tropical cyclones during the post-monsoon season over Bay of Bengal,” the paper states.
India Meteorological Department Director General Mrutunjay Mohapatra said the reasons for fatalities during cyclones have changed over the years with improvement in IMD's forecast abilities.
Earlier, storm surge was the major reason behind fatalities, but now deaths are caused mostly by the collapse of a tree or a house now, he said. The storms produce strong winds that push the water into the shores, which can lead to flooding. This makes storm surges very dangerous for coastal regions.
But over a period, the forecast as well as the response to these events have changed considerably, he said, adding people are now evacuated from low-lying areas with prior warnings. Cyclones also bring in thunderstorms, lightning and heavy rains which also prove fatal, he said.