The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) has written a letter to the Chief Secretaries of all the states that are likely to be affected by the intensified cyclonic storm 'Yaas', urging the state governments to make adequate arrangements for Covid preparedness as well.

The fears are mounting that the storm might compound the public health threat posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Cyclone Yaas is likely to make a landfall along the Bengal-Odisha coast between May 24 and May 26.

cyclone amphan
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In the letter, the MoHFW said, "The public health challenges already posed by the Covid-19 pandemic may be compounded due to the direct impact of the cyclone in terms of waterborne, vector-borne and airborne diseases that may arise in the community or in the displaced population in camps and temporary shelter settings."

In a series of instructions given to the state authorities, the ministry said, "Activate the health sector incident command system and the emergency operation centre/control room. Identify a nodal officer and convey his contact details to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Activate health sector DM plan and the hospital disaster management plan of all the coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh, Andaman Islands, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal."

Urging the states to keep adequate stocks of ORS, Chlorine tablets, bleaching powder and specific drugs, the letter said," There should be adequate power back-up arrangements for all the hospitals, labs, vaccine cold-chains, oxygen generation units and other supportive medical facilities."

The state governments have been asked to ensure water, electricity and fuel for the health facilities in the affected areas.

Urging for advance planning along the path of the cyclone, the states have been requested to ensure unhindered movement of oxygen tankers, especially advance movement of empty tankers by Air Force aircraft or Indian Railways.

The states have also been asked to make arrangements for rapid antigen testing for the population in camps followed by RT-PCR testing for symptomatic negatives of antigen tests. "Senior citizens and those suffering from diabetes, hypertension, liver/ kidney/ respiratory disease, and immuno-compromised diseases need to be specifically monitored with Covid perspective as they constitute people under high risk," the letter said.

Assuring all kinds of assistance to the states, the ministry asked for evacuation of the hospitals in the path of the cyclone in the concerned districts of Odisha and West Bengal.

Mamata asks officials to remain on guard against Cyclone Yaas

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday asked the senior government officials and the district administrations to make all the necessary arrangements to tackle the cyclonic storm 'Yaas, which is likely to hit the coastal areas of the state between May 23 and May 26.

Mamata Banerjee
Mamata Banerjee

The Regional Meteorological Department has predicted that super cyclone Yaas is likely to make landfall in the Sundarban areas of the state between May 23 and May 26 and possibly move towards Bangladesh.

Chairing a virtual meeting involving state and district administrative officials, Banerjee asked them to arrange for adequate stocks of medicines, drinking water, dry food and tarpaulins.

She also asked them to ensure that enough force, both from the state disaster management team and the police, is deployed in the region.

"All cyclone centres and shelters have been asked to be prepared. The district magistrates have been directed to take all the precautionary measures in the wake of the warnings. The district administrations have been asked to caution the fishermen not to venture into the sea," an official said.

The Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) is taking all precautionary measures to combat Cyclone Yash.

"We have made arrangements for generators so that water supply to households in the city is not affected even if there is a power cut. The main water supply stations and the booster pumping stations will be equipped with generators to ensure uninterrupted water supply," KMC official Debasish Kumar told the media after a meeting with the concerned officials on Thursday.

Kumar added that there will be two groups of officials from the Parks and Squares and Civil department in each of the 16 boroughs and a small team in every ward so that immediate intervention can be made in case of any emergent situation.

Machines and equipment have been requisitioned borough-wise so that the roads can be cleared on priority basis in case of uprooting of trees. School buildings and community halls are being sanitised and will be used in case there is a need to shift residents from the dangerous buildings, the official added.

Coastal areas on alert

Following the instructions, the District Magistrate of South 24 Parganas district, P. Ulganathan, held a series of meetings with the sub-divisional officers (SDOs), block development officers (BDOs) and line departments on Thursday to supervise all possible measures that can be taken to overcome the tough challenge imposed by the cyclone amid the Covid pandemic situation.

Meanwhile, the administrative officials of Sagar block in Sunderbans, which is one of the most vulnerable areas because of its closeness to the coastline, including Sundarban Development Minister Bankim Hazra and other senior officials held a meeting at the panchayat level on Thursday.

It was decided that facilities for temporary shifting of people will be made in 18 cyclone centres, 34 higher secondary schools, 124 primary schools and also some Sishu Shiksha Kendra (SSK) and ICDS centres. All the facilities will be thoroughly sanitised.

The SDOs of Kakdwip and Canning also held meetings in their respective jurisdictions. Arrangements have been made in coordination with the district administration for procurement of relief materials and food well in advance.

At least 400 people, who live very close to the coastline at Ghoramara, will be shifted on May 24 to the Vivekananda High School and Fulabari Sitala High School. The Karmatirtha in Sagar is also being readied for a temporary shelter.