A first-of-its-kind multi-state mega mock exercise on tsunami preparedness was carried out on Friday along the entire eastern coastline of India. The simulation exercises were conducted in 35 coastal districts of West Bengal, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu and the Union Territory of Puducherry to assess and improve the early warning and response mechanism to mitigate the impact of a high-intensity tsunami, a home ministry statement said. Representatives from 11 Pacific Island countries observed the exercise for key lessons and best practices to be adopted while preparing for and responding to a disaster situation. The exercise was conducted by the home ministry through National Disaster Management Authority and the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services. The exercise scenario depicted a high intensity quake near the Andaman and Nicobar Islands at around 0930 hours and within moments, the Indian Tsunami Early Warning Centre (ITEWC), INCOIS, issued a massive tsunami threat notification for the eastern coast through e-mails, fax and SMSs. It also put out detailed bulletins on its website as part of the mock exercise. A two-hour reaction time was notified within which the entire state machinery needed to be mobilised so as to efficiently respond to the situation in a manner which reduces the impact of the tsunami. As part of the exercise, in less than half an hour, the state emergency operation centres (SEOCs) were activated. Besides mobilising the state machinery to respond and public warnings were sent out to the communities.
Evacuation instructions were issued, rescue teams were formed under incident commanders and kept at standby in the staging areas, the statement said. The evacuation drills were conducted in coordination with various agencies, such as traffic control, fire fighting department, ambulances, police, coast guards, civil defence and community stakeholders. Post the simulated landfall of the tsunami, damage assessment was carried out at the SEOCs on the basis of information received from affected districts and first-hand information by air sorties, both fixed wings and helicopters. This helped the administration in prioritising the response and dispatching the appropriate task forces to the affected sites. Their participation was part of a training programme meant for enhancing their ability to improve the preparedness of their organisations to reduce disaster risks, especially for tsunami, it said.