Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management

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Volume 8 Issue 1 (March 2000), Pages 1-62

Plague: A Challenge for Urban Crisis Management (pages 42-54)

The return of Plague, an unforgotten scourge of mankind, once again reminds us that it continues to smoulder in populations of wild rodents in natural foci throughout the world. Its occasional outbreaks remind one of the devastation it caused in the past. The 1994 outbreak in Surat caused local panic (mass hysteria) and international concern, leading to the imposition of travel and trade restrictions by a number of countries. The authenticity of the crucial decision in declaring the epidemic as ‘Plague’ and, later, different institutional initiatives taken for isolating the germ (Y. pestis) were subject to many controversies. The uniqueness of an extra band in its protein profile created much speculation among the media. This gave momentum to various notions, as to whether the disaster was natural or man‐made. In spite of all these short‐comings, the decision came to identify the epidemic as Plague and the entire catastrophic incidence was controlled within a week, with a low mortality rate.

This paper traces the chronological evolution of the Plague epidemic and analyses the critical issues of its management, undertaken by various authorities and individuals, including a common citizenary. The emerging key issues of this catastrophic incident are discussed and an anatomy of the crisis is presented. The lessons learnt are put towards a model for strengthening long‐term planning against any such sudden natural or man‐made disaster.

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