Drowning and snakebite have turned out to be the two major killers in Odisha that take away more lives than any other form of disaster such as lightning, cyclones, heat waves, floods, boat capsizes, rain and whirlwinds.
Revenue and disaster management minister Sudam Marandi informed the Assembly on Thursday that 16,372 people were killed by various notified disasters in Odisha during the past five years. As many as 7,874 people died by drowning between 2018 and 2019 to 2022-23. At the same period, 5,219 people were killed of snake bites.
Most of the people die of snake bites while working in the agricultural field, officials maintained. “The number of snakebite cases can be reduced through proper awareness,” snake helpline officials said.
Lightning turned out to be another major killer. During the last five years, lightning killed 2,058 people in the state. Because of the climatic changes, the occurrence of lightning increased over the years and similarly the number of deaths because of lightning has gone up.
Former director of Bhubaneswar centre of IMD and director, Centre for Environment and Climate of SOA University, Dr S.C. Sahu said: “Because of intense heat and presence of high moisture content of moisture in the air due to the advancement of air from the Bay of Bengal, lightning has become a common occurrence.”
Dr Sahu said: “Intense heat waves coupled with other climatic changes have intensified the lightning strikes in Orissa. It takes place because of cumulonimbus clouds.”
However, the number of deaths because of cyclones has come down over the years, thanks to the robust mechanism developed by the state government after the super cyclone that took away more than 10,000 lives in 1999.
“During cyclones, we work with a zero casualty mission,” said the Managing Director, Odisha State Disaster Management Authority (OSDMA), Gyana Ranjan Das.
After lightning, fire mishaps emerged as the major killer. As many as 759 people were killed in fire mishaps during the past five years. Similarly, heatwave claimed 141 lives, cyclones killed 140 people, flood claimed 73 people, boat capsizes took away 46 and whirlwind and heavy rain accounted for 31 deaths.
According to the Odisha government, the state is paying compensation to the next of kin of the deceased killed in natural disasters.
At present, Rs 4 lakh is given to the people who die in disasters except for death by sunstroke. In the heat wave cases, the compensation amount stands at Rs 50,000.