MNOs respond to storm season as UNISDR praises India’s ‘Zero Casualty’ focus

Panorama of MODIS Terra images from the Indian sub-continent (and Cyclone Hudhud) to Japan (and Super Typhoon Vongfong) Source: Stuart Rankin on Flickr

Storm season is well underway, with significant cyclones making landfall in both India and Japan over the past week. The UN has praised India’s ‘Zero Casualty’ focus on cyclones, the success of which is due in part to ‘science, technology, education and logistical preparation.’ An extract of this statement is below:

“The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) today said India has clearly demonstrated to the world that a “zero casualty” focus in the face of extreme weather events is both feasible and actionable following its second major success in 12 months at minimising the loss of life in the face of a severe cyclone packing winds of up to 200 kms per hour.

Margareta Wahlström, Head of UNISDR, said: “India has demonstrated again to the world that if you set the bar high for reducing your exposure to risk then you will save many lives and reduce your economic losses. Cyclone Hudhud was just as great a threat as last year’s cyclone Phailin to a densely populated coastline. The authorities, with the support of the Indian Meteorological Department, acted with speed to order the evacuation of up to 400,000 people. This, along with a great effort to keep the public informed, kept casualty figures low.”

Ms. Wahlström said: “India’s journey from the loss of 10,000 people in the Odisha super cyclone of 1999 to today’s relatively low death tolls from similar events demonstrates the value of agreeing on global priorities for reducing disaster risk. The continuous stream of bulletins and alerts from the State Governments of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha inspired confidence. The Indian National Coastal, Ocean Information Systems and the National Disaster Management Authority also played vital roles in ensuring that all measures taken were based on real-time sea and weather forecasts.  Science, technology, education and logistical preparations all played their part in this latest success.”


On Sunday morning, Cyclone Hudhud made landfall in India, necessitating the evacuation of tens of thousands of people in the Eastern States of Andhra Pradesh and Orissa.  Wind speeds were clocked between 180-195 km/hour and much of the coastline has been impacted by waves measuring 2-3 meters. Significant damage has been sustained to infrastructure and power lines and thus mobile networks have experienced outages.  It is currently estimated that 150,000 residents have been evacuated and are seeking shelter in centres set up in schools railway stations and religious centres.  Prior to landfall, mobile operators met with Government officials to discuss contingency plans, and Uninor, Vodafone and Bharti had reportedly dispatched emergency fuel and generators to at-risk areas. All operators were prioritising restoration activities around urban centres first, followed by low-lying rural areas that have largely been evacuated.

A snapshot of Bharti Airtel’s response to the Cyclone thus far:

  • Prior to the cyclone, Bharti Airtel and BSNL agreed to send free SMS alert messages about the cyclone to subscribers, and this campaign was complimented by local radio announcements.
  • Set up a helpline shortcode to help people establish the last location of their friends and relatives in the affected areas
  • Developed a helpline and backup capacity call centres
  • Following the network failure experiences during the Kashmir flooding earlier this year, have trained and stationed additional staff to support relief and restoration activities
  • Deployed backup diesel generators and pre-positioned back up fibre and other equipment to support restoration
  • Arranged VSAT backhaul for use if required

Additionally, the Government of Andhra Pradesh has embraced tech innovations. These include developing an Android based app to enable crowdsourcing of the impact and damage within the affected areas. It’s aimed at helping the government assess damages and allocate response teams and resources accordingly.


In Japan, Typhoon Vongfong made landfall across the country’s main islands this morning. The storm disrupted power lines, led to cancellation of over 500 flights and has led to the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of residents. Landslides, flooding and heavy rains are expected. This is the post powerful storm to hit the country this year. Operators in Japan have taken innovative measures to ensure that subscribers can reach loved ones in times of natural disaster, as we’ve written about here: Innovations in mobile technology for disaster response – Part 1 and in South Korea here: Innovations in mobile technology for disaster response – Part 2

Our team will continue to monitor the impacts of these storms on the networks and capture what GSMA members are doing in preparation and response. More information about the humanitarian impact of these events can be found at ReliefWeb.

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