Shelters designed by IIT Kharagpur House Fani Hit Thousands in Odisha

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Kharagpur: As the extremely severe Cyclone Fani hit Odisha and Bengal, the grand old IIT at Kharagpur has again turned out to have a not so insignificant role as life savior. It was 2004, after the devastating super cyclone in 1999, IIT Kharagpur had designed cyclone shelters with a capacity of holding several hundred. Orissa State Disaster Mitigation Authority (OSDMA), a constituent of the Government of Odisha, in association with IIT Kharagpur then constructed these shelters across coastal areas of Orissa.

These two-storied buildings with concrete frameworks and masonry infill, on stilts located a few miles away from the seashores, have withstood the onslaughts of several cyclones since its inception. As Fani approached, thousands found safety in these ‘crab-like’ structures designed and implemented to be functionally adequate and economically viable. Several measures were taken to safeguard the structures as constructing the shelters in a few areas was rather difficult for poor soil condition. While designing the structures, aspect of the usage of these structures throughout the year for proper maintenance was thought of. Accordingly, most of the shelters were designed as marketplace cum shelters while some were designed as school cum cyclone shelters. Once again the structures withstood the fury of the cyclone with a wind speed of more than 200kmph, demonstrating its robustness in design and execution.

The Odisha government in its action plan to minimize loss to life prepared a holistic degree plan of which a critical plan was to get people to the shelters. The state which has been hit by several storms and cyclones drilled for emergency actions. On Thursday one could hear announcements on the loudspeakers asking people to go to the nearest shelters. Government buses too dropped people to these shelters. As people were brought in to the shelters, food and water were also made available.

While Fani carried its assault outside the shelters, the several hundred relaxed in the safe space of these shelters. Some of them proactively expressed their gratitude for the safety being offered at the shelters.

What do the technologists from IIT Kharagpur who designed these shelter space, feel on this achievement?

As Director Prof. Partha Pratim Chakrabarti recalls the implementation of the project more than a decade ago when he was Dean, Sponsored Research and Industrial Consultancy. “It was Prof G C Mitra and current Deputy Director Prof Sriman Kumar Bhattacharyya who led the project. There were hurdles including audit objections but when it comes to works like this deeply rooted into national interest ways were innovated. IIT Kharagpur is proud to have implemented this project. The people’s blessings have been the highest reward. May we get more such opportunities and have more selfless, capable people like Prof Mitra and Prof Bhattacharyya.”

The project was funded by the Prime Minister’s Office.

“I am extremely happy to note that the cyclone shelters, which were built along the Orissa coast through PMO funded project at IIT Kharagpur, have saved the lives of a large number of people during the devastating cyclone ‘FANI’. These kinds of works that are carried out at IIT Kharagpur give us immense satisfaction. As one of the investigators-in-charge along with my colleague and a renowned engineer (former Engineer-in-chief cum Secretary, Govt. of Orissa), Prof. Gopal Chandra Mitra, I take pride to be associated with such project, which saves the lives of people”, said Prof. Sriman Kumar Bhattacharyya, Deputy Director of IIT Kharagpur.

On a jovial note, Prof. Chakrabarti was heard telling the alumni on Saturday “Fani could not get beyond the two towers at IIT Kharagpur on its attempted march to Kolkata.”