Indian Navy Emerges as First Responder in IOR
On March 14, Cyclone Idai made landfall near the port city of Beira in Mozambique. The cyclone moved across Mozambique and then inland, affecting parts of Malawi and Zimbabwe. The powerful storm brought widespread flooding and destruction. This was the most severe natural disaster to affect southern Africa in over three decades.
Cyclone ‘IDAI’ caused widespread damage and loss of human life in the Central and Northern provinces of the country. Preliminary inputs indicate that city of Beira faced the maximum devastation with large scale damage to infrastructure.
The ships of First Training Squadron of Indian Navy (Sujata, Sarathi and Shardul) operating in the Southern Indian Ocean were diverted to Port Beira, Mozambique based on request received from the Government of Mozambique to provide Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) to the local population post the devastation caused by cyclone ‘IDAI’ which struck the coast of Mozambique.
INS Sujata along with ICGS Sarathi arrived at Port Beira morning of 18 Mar 19 whilst INS Shardul arrived on 19 Mar 19 and provided necessary support to the local administration.
Upon arrival at the port, the IN ships shifted from anchorage and berthed alongside taking advantage of the tide and commenced liaison work with local authorities immediately.
On March 22, the Interagency Standing Committee (IASC) for the United Nations declared Scale-Up level (formerly called Level 3) in Mozambique, declaring it the highest level of priority for UN Agencies. The International Red Cross is supporting search and rescue efforts through their local chapters and the governments of Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi. The U.S. and several European countries have committed funding for humanitarian relief efforts.
It should be noted that before the IASC of the UN declared Scale Up level [Former Level 3] Indian Navy ships were already operational to provide relief to the people of the country indicating speed of response.
The Hon’bleDefence Minister of Mozambique visited IN ships to oversee the relief efforts. The Senior Officer of First Training Squadron, CaptVarun Singh, NM embarked onboard IN Ship Sujata indicated to the Mozambique Navy that no effort would be spared by the IN ships in providing HADR/ SAR effort.
The helicopter from IN Ship Shardul operated from the local airport for reccee and SAR. The boats, Landing Craft Assault and Gemini rubberised craft with divers would be used to render assistance for evacuation of marooned personnel.
The IN ships setup medical camps and provided food, water, blankets and other necessary relief items, as required by the local authorities.
The local community along with Indian Community enthusiastically joined the HADR efforts being undertaken by the ships. The Rescue teams were voluntarily been provided vehicles by the Indian community for travel to affected areas and for coordination with the local authorities.
The Indian Diaspora also organised local SIM cards for the teams so that effective communication is maintained while undertaking rescue work.
During the ongoing operations at Port Beira since 18 Mar 19, the ships have rescued more than 192 survivors from Buzi area near Port Beira, which is cut off from the mainland.
Three medical camps were set up at Port Beira, Gaura-Gaurathe Island and Matadoura School, Imnhamizua and Medical assistance has been provided to over 1500 affected people from the local population.
The Chetak helicopter of Indian Navy has undertaken a number of sorties in difficult conditions for evacuation of local personnel in coordination with local authorities and the UN Mission. In addition, it has also dropped relief material (food and water) including that provided by World Food Programme. Community services are being undertaken by the ships crew at affected locations like schools, churches, hospitals, orphanages in coordination with the local government officials. The ships have setup a Community Kitchen kept open 24×7 for local populace including the workers at the port and 22 tons of fresh water has been provided to local authorities.
Exploitation of the centrality of the location in the IOR, mission based deployment and flexibility in redeployment proved that the Indian Navy remains the first responder in the oceanic periphery.