A team of six personnel – four of them White House staffers and two Homeland Security department officials – landed at the BMC headquarters last week to get an idea how Mumbai works and reacts in case of untoward incidents.
Top civic sources said the visit had nothing to do with the Mumbai visit of US vice president Joseph Robinette or popularly known as Joe Biden, who will be in the city this week. The team was on a secret mission to understand and share details about what to do and how to tackle untoward incidents like nuclear and chemical attacks.
“In case of conventional ways of spreading panic, like say bomb explosion, there is a mechanism on how to conduct post-incident activities. However with the changing times, such organisations have changed their style of functioning.
Their focus is shifting from from bomb explosions to chemical and nuclear attacks, which can cause more harm,” said a source.
Keeping in mind the possibility of such incidents, the US personnel and BMC discussed options of what can be done and what system and device can be developed to handle the situation.
“We are working out details. The issue is being handled at every stage by the Centre, state government and the local governing agencies. Being the local governing agency, which will have to deal with the situation through its healthcare system, the team held discussion with the BMC,” the source added.
The BMC is perhaps the first civic body in the country with which the White House is engaged in such a dialogue.
The BMC’s disaster management cell made a presentation to the delegation, which was curious to know how it tackled disasters in the city which has sea on its three sides, open nullahs and majority of its space is occupied by slums.
“Mumbai is a big business centre. No country can afford to see its trade-related activities here get affected. Besides, the US has its consulate here. Hence, such a meeting was held,” he added.
Municipal commissioner Sitaram Kunte confirmed the visit but refused to give any details.