ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Preparedness in Disaster Situations

Lessons from Chennai Floods 2015

Serious epidemics after the December 2015 floods in Chennai were averted by prompt preventive action initiated by the government which was supported by NGOs and citizen groups. This article highlights areas for improvement and initiates a dialogue around the theme of disaster preparedness and better coordinated relief efforts.

In 2015, unprecendented heavy rainfall of 1,049 mm (43.1 in) in November was followed by a torrential deluge of 500 mm in a 24-hour period on 1 December in Chennai. The downpour left over 400 people dead and 1.8 million people displaced. Estimated damages from the flooding were over Rs 20,000 crore (Firstpost 2016, Deccan Chronicle 2015).

The Department of Health & Family Welfare of the Government of Tamil Nadu expeditiously and aggressively tackled the health situation across the city. The measures averted widespread transmission of diseases in the immediate post-flooding period in an extended metropolis area with a population of around 6.5 million. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other civil society organisations also contributed to the preventive public health interventions. A similar scenario was also playing out at the same time in the districts of Cuddalore and Tiruvallur in Tamil Nadu, which reeled under persistently heavy rainfall leading to severe damage and public health challenges faced by Chennai.

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