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On May 3rd 2019, Cyclone Fani made landfall near Puri, Odisha. Cyclone Fani was a storm as intense as a category 4 hurricane, and unleashed winds with speeds up to 130 miles per hour, and a storm surge over 5 feet tall. The storm resulted in scores of homes being washed away, and massive crop destruction. Cyclone Fani caused an arc of devestation through the Indian states of Odisha, Assam, West Bengal and Bangladesh. The cyclone passed through densely populated territory that is the home to 100 million, and resulted in the deaths of 57 people. As tragic as this loss of life is, the death toll is far less than when a powerful cyclone hit Odisha in 1999 resulting in the loss of over 10,000 lives.

Cyclone Fani caused lower a lower death toll in part because this cyclone is weaker than the 1999 cyclone. However, much of the credit must be given to proactive efforts by the state government to prepare for Cyclone Fani. 43,000 volunteers and 1,000 emergency workers organized a massive public education campaign that included 2.6 million texts and public sirens blazing a message of getting to shelters in vulnerable areas. The government has evacuated 1 million people, and organized food and distributed oral rehydration solution in advance of the cyclone to keep hunger to a minimum and to make sure people have access to clean water. Bangladesh has similarly reacted strongly to Cyclone Fani, evacuating 1.6 million people from coastal areas.

The response of India and Bangladesh to a major cyclone is in stark contrast to that of Mozambique after its recent Cyclones Idai and Kenneth where early warning systems failed, and the cyclones have resulted in a public health catastrophe . Mozambique’s reaction in part can be explained by the fact that GDP per capita is much lower than in India or Bangladesh. However, many of the solutions such as enrolling mass numbers of volunteers, mass texts and sirens, and stockpiling Oral Rehydration Solution are not especially expensive. India and Bangladesh improved their disaster management response institutions in response to a failure to respond from past storms. Global warming is likely to dramatically increase the likelihood of severe storms. Countries throughout the world, including Mozambique, will need to learn from their own mistakes and the successes of countries like India and Bangladesh, if they wish to avoid similar tragedies in the future.

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