RMC Chennai defends itself, says loss of lives during cyclones were averted due to world-class equipment

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin and a host of DMK leaders had claimed that the IMD failed to predict the accurate amount of rainfall.

BySouth First Desk

Published Dec 24, 2023 | 1:03 PMUpdatedDec 24, 2023 | 1:04 PM

Tamil nadu heavy rains

Amid the criticism that there was a delay in the forecast on the amount of heavy rainfall that occurred last week, the Regional Meteorological Centre (RMC) in Chennai said it has world-class equipment and because of the warning it issued, huge loss of lives was prevented when cyclones like Vardah and Michaung crossed the Eastern coast.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin and a host of leaders from the ruling DMK had claimed that the India Meteorological Department (IMD) failed to predict the accurate amount of rainfall in its forecast for the southern districts which faced “historic” rains last week, leading to severe flooding.

Union Finance and Corporate Affairs Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, however, countered the comments by Stalin and said the RMC in Chennai had “modern” equipment and was a “state-of-the-art” facility, and that it had forecast “heavy rains” in southern states well in advance.

Related: Sitharaman insulted TN people in the grip of calamity, says DMK

‘Infrastructure at the centre is world-class’

The RMC Chennai, in a statement, on Sunday, 24 December, said there were media reports that the centre did not have any modern equipment and was lacking in advanced tools.

“There are several equipment — high-speed computers, ISRO’s satellite support facilities and RADAR — which are world-class”, the statement said.

Elaborating, the RMC said, to forecast Chennai and neighbouring districts, it has two Doppler Radars and for Tamil Nadu, it has three Doppler Radars.

“These are X-band type radars built in association with ISRO technology. The World Meteorological Organisation also commended the infrastructure at the centre as world-class,” it said.

It was due to these facilities that a lot of lives were saved during the impact of various cyclones including Vardah, Gajah, Nivar and Michaung, the centre said.

“Making such criticism hurt the sentiments of the dedicated employees of the centre and it is an insult to Indian technology. It is appealed not to make such comments,” the statement said.

As many as 31 people lost their lives in rain-related incidents in Tenkasi, Tirunelveli, Tuticorin and Kanyakumari districts due to the ‘historic’ rainfall that occurred on 17 and 18 December leading to severe flooding in several areas.

Related: South TN rains not a national calamity, says Nirmala Sitharaman

What the state government said

Indicating that the state was not sufficiently forewarned of what was coming, Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary Shiv Das Meena said on 19 December that the forecast of heavy rainfall by the India Meteorological Department was “wrong” as extremely heavy rainfall was received in the affected districts within a short period of two days.

On the same day, the Minister for Milk and Dairy Development, Mano Thangaraj, also raised questions on the performance of the IMD. The minister said it was time to also reflect on collective response to natural disasters.

In his letter to the Union government, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin also pointed to inaccuracies in predictions by IMD on the quantum of rains.

Observing that the forecast by the IMD turned out to be “wrong”, he said and added, “The IMD had predicted isolated to heavy, very heavy to extreme rainfall may occur in one or two places. This is what the forecast said. But Kayalpattinam (a municipality in Tuticorin district) received 115 cm rainfall in two days.”

He said southern districts, particularly Tirunelveli and Tuticorin, witnessed record rainfall and flooding that was unprecedented and historic.

Taking to X on the issue, Mano Thangaraj, stated, “…it is crucial to reflect on both the performance of our Meteorological Department and our collective response to such natural disasters.”

He added, “While the Tamil Nadu government has exerted considerable effort to manage this crisis, there is always room for improvement. However, it’s important to acknowledge that the unforeseen severity and impact of these events could have been mitigated with more precise and timely forecasts from the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD).”