Friday, July 29, 2005

Our Role in Disaster Management

When disaster struck Mumbai in the form of heavy rains and floods,we realized that we had very poor disaster management system, and blamed Govt./Police for this.But what is the role of citizens during disaster? No one has any idea what we as citizens supposed to do.Take the case of Tuesdays floods with few examples.
Everyone wanted to reach safety of the home irrespective of the perils along the way.I gave lift at 11.30pm to group of 5 ladies with their children. Chidren had gone to school near Chandan cinema and their mothers got worried and left their homes on Yari Road at 4 pm to go to school and bring them home.While returning they had to cross overflowing Nallah where there was very strong currant as water was flowing to sea in ebb tide. They took 8 hrs in rains, darkness and flooded Link road for to and fro journey.Where children were safe? In school or on roads?
Mr. Mahesh Bhatt interviewed a lady, who went to pick up her daughter in Jamnabai School which was under may be 7 feet water and from there to Neena's home in Juhu, wading through water for 1 1/2 hrs.Mr.Bhatt applauded their efforts. But where they were safe? in elite school like Jamnabai or on road flooded with dirty water? Surely elite school like Jannabai can safely keep student and provide water and food to students for upto 24 hrs.
Ms. Dilnaz Boga -Journalist with Mumbai Mirror-moves out of safety of Times Bldg. with 2 lady colleagues to go to their homes in Mahim and beyond and has described her experience in Mumbai Mirror.Its a good copy to read but can she explain what was the need to leave safety of TOI bldg in first place.TOI doesn't have facility to keep journalist there for 24 hrs?
I agree with bloggist 1963, that people would like to be with their families during disaster but disasters are not managed by emotions. You have to carryout your assigned role to manage and help in disaster.So its important to fix citizens role while planning disaster management..Everywhere schools are used for shelter during disaster and here we take children out of safety of school to dangerously flooded roads.In future schools and office should be equipped to accommodate students and staff for the duration till all clear is given or safely moved by authorities.
Lesson to be learned from this disaster is to be at safe place during disaster and move only when all clear is sounded, as was advised to Londoner during 7/7 Bomb blasts.If this simple principle were followed by officegoers in Mumbai, then they would have stayed put in safe place like office or nearest safe place like home of friend or relative nearby.This would have prevented traffic Jams caused by stalled cars,(even their costly cars and other valuables would have been safe),easy movement of rescue teams which were held up by traffic and fewer incidents of need to rescue people who were trapped in surging water while going home. There would have been fewer people on stations and lot easier to provide water and food.Telecommunication would not be overwhelmed and their dear ones would not have spent hours worrying about them. In my hospital, staff and even visiting doctors were asked not to leave till water receded and was safe to go home.We made arrangement for the food(just omelet and bread).Even a couple who wanted to use toilet in the hospital was asked to stay in hospital premises till water receded.My daughter was asked to stay at relatives place till we fetched her next day evening.A doctor friend in Parla -west was host to friend's daughter and her friends for upto Wednesday afternoon.They were safe and we spent worryfree night.This horrowing experience was completely avoidable and unfortunately there were many who lost their lives for not following this First principle of Disaster Management.

New Life amidts Flood of Mumbai

Watching clips of floods in Gujrat,Goa,Raigad on TV I had always thought that this is one situation Mumbai wont face. Psunami may be, but not floods as we know.My only expirience of flood was during my trip to mahabaleshwar in August of 1999, when incessant rains had flooded river near Mahad/Poladpur.But it was not dangerous as we soon left for Mahabaleshwar.In the past ,during heavy rains at high tide in Mumbai, streets would get flooded,but it never caused anything more than minor irritation. Besides one always knows which areas get flooded and can avoid them by taking detours.It was different story this time. Rains caused flooding everywhere and area near sea in Juhu,Goregaon, Jogeshwari and other places and strong current caused maximum distruction and deaths.
I was fortunate that I chose to stay home.I had to go to Mumbai to meet my Tax Consultant to file return and I had planned to return home with friends who work in fort area.My appointment was for 4 pm so after lunch I was on net reading Amit's blogs on cows and foray in the Lovers corner in Orbit Mall.But previous experience had taught me to keep an eye on rains, so by 2.30 pm I was convinced that this rain will flood the streets and trains will stop as Matunga,Mahim,Dadar ,Parel will get flooded as they usually do.I phoned my friends in Fort area told them that I am not coming and they should leave immedietally or stay there in the office till water recedes.They were surprised as there was no rain there.So I told them to Phone before starting.
At 3pm Doctor friend phoned to asked whether he could do C Section in my hospital as he had no light and emergency light would not last long.He couldnt transfer the patient as roads were flooded.Fortunatelly my house and Hospital in Seven Bunglow is on higher ground and there is no flooding, and we had electricity.I asked friend to bring the patient to my hospital and I rushed to hospital to keep Operation Theatre ready for immediete surgery.In 15 minutes friend was in hospital with patient and theatre was ready,but Anaesthetist was stuck in flooded street. Water was upto Bonnet of his car.So he started walking in the waist high water with strong currunt and heavy anaesthetist bag on his head. Its just 1km from hospital but walking was difficult. Our anxiety level was rising faster than water in the street,If we loose the child or mother becomes serious its disaster for us.Besides so far we had electricity but how long will it be there ? To operate in Emergency light,even the thought was making us anxious and nervous.After waiting for 30 mnts. we phoned other Anaesthetist friend.Outside his building Water was chest high and water had entered BSES transformer in the compound so there was danger of Electric shock. But he agreed to come. Doctor friend went to pick him up.Thats good about old model M-800. it can navigate in flooded street better than all these new cars.By this time 1st anesthetist walked in ,all wet.I asked him to change and tried to contact doctor friend on Cell.Luckily Orange network started working & after 5-6 tries call was through and I asked him to rush back to start operation.
We were all set now, Washed up,Patient prepared,Anaesthetised and... light went out.Inverter light took over, all light except operation light were switched off. No AC, no Cautery, No electric suction.Emergency foot operated suction was availabe.In 5 mts baby was out,crying loudly, By this time second anesthetist also walked in.Neonatologist took care of the baby and we completed the operation without any further problem.But it was tense time for us.If things go wrong there is no help, no blood to transfuse.One has to just thank God.Tomorrow She is going home.Will she remember her first delivery? Will she tell her baby that she was born on a day when Mumbai had record rainfall and was flooded? In all these stories of horrowing expiriences,the story of her birth is not interesting.But its one story which has happy ending,a story where a new life has come amidts all this destruction.