Tragedy engulfed villages and towns of Bara and Parsa districts in Tarai plains when the powerful windstorm hit the settlements Sunday night. As reports are coming in from the ground, more than 27 people have been killed and more than 600 have been injured. Hundreds of houses have been destroyed and people are waiting for rescue and relief. It’s truly a traumatizing situation in these districts. We stand by the victims and urge the government authorities as well as civil society and non-governmental organizations to do whatever they can from their capacity to ease the lives of suffering people at this hour of national mourning. The Department of Hydrology and Meteorology, the government body responsible for issuing hydrological and meteorological forecasts for public, mountaineering expedition, civil aviation, and for mitigation of natural disasters, has called this 30-knot gale the first to hit Nepal. BBC Weather Forecast has warned of similar weather pattern to persist on lower and Eastern belt for some more time to come. DHM authority has also warned that pre-monsoon will continue to bring wind, thunderstorm and rainfall in different parts of Nepal.
We wonder why DHM could not send alert notification to these districts in advance. There are reports that Meteorological Department of India’s Ministry of Earth Sciences had already issued warning about storm in West Bengal and Bihar, Nepal’s neighboring Indian states. It is troubling that our DHM failed to do so though DHM has been mostly accurate in its weather forecast in recent times. Sunday’s tragedy has raised the question about competence, efficiency and reliability of DHM. Why did it fail on its vital duty? If lack of hydrological and meteorological stations is the issue, they must be installed wherever they are required. If human resource is the issue, the government must provide adequate human resources at all stations of DHM. If lack of technology is the hurdle, it must be resolved. DHM’s failure cannot be justified on any pretext, especially when its failure to warn the people on time has resulted in so many deaths and destruction of homes and properties. If timely alert was sent, many lives could have been saved.
Meanwhile, people across the country have stood united to help the suffering people. People are voluntarily collecting aids and making public appeal for help through social media platforms. Nepal Army and Nepal Police are carrying out rescue and relief operations, injured people have been taken to various hospitals for treatment. This is the spirit we must have when fellow Nepalis are in trouble. The government of Province 2 has decided to provide Rs 300,000 to each family of those killed in the storm. Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli himself visited storm-hit Bara and Parsa districts, met injured people and assured that the government would leave no stone unturned to carry out rescue and relief efforts. Ruling Nepal Communist Party parliamentarians have also announced to donate their one month salary to raise funds for storm-affected families. These are good gestures, no doubt. Meanwhile, the authorities and all those involved in the process must ensure that relief materials reach the victims on time, each surviving victim is provided treatment and not a single penny or relief materials collected for the victims are misused. Most of all, it must be ensured that no such tragedy will recur because of failure of weather forecast system.