Indian state braces for Tauktae, ‘worst’ cyclone in decades

Indian state braces for Tauktae, ‘worst’ cyclone in decades

Nearly 150,000 people have been moved from their homes in the Indian state of Gujarat to safety and authorities have closed ports and a main airport as the most intense cyclone in more than two decades roared the west coast.
Cyclone Tauktae killed at least 12 people and left traces of destruction as it passed the coastal states of Kerala, Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra, authorities said. It is expected to make landfall in Gujarat on Monday evening.

“This will be the most severe cyclone to hit Gujarat in at least 20 years. This can be compared to the 1998 cyclone which hit Kandla and inflicted heavy damage, ”Secretary of State for Revenue Pankaj Kumar told Reuters news agency.

The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) classified the storm, which formed in the Arabian Sea, as an “extremely severe” storm, upgrading it to the “very severe” category.

Passengers walk on a street near a bus terminus amid heavy rains from Cyclone Tauktae in Mumbai [Indranil Mukherjee/AFP]

Forecasters have warned of possible significant damage from high winds, heavy rains and flooding in low areas.

Mumbai’s financial hub was hit by heavy rains and high winds as Cyclone Tauktae moved north. High winds forced the authorities to suspend operations at Mumbai airport and close some main roads.

The cyclone, with sustained surface winds of 180-190 km / h and gusts of up to 210 km / h that would place it at the same level as a category 3 hurricane, is classified one level below the category IMD super cyclones.

In addition to the 12 deaths reported in Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka, at least 28 fishing boats were missing, a coast guard official told Reuters.

Storm in the midst of a raging pandemic

The cyclone is increasing pressure on local governments already grappling with a high number of cases of COVID-19 infections.

Women with their children leave their homes and evacuate to a safer location before Cyclone Tauktae in Veraval, western Gujarat [Amit Dave/Reuters]

The storm has already resulted in the suspension of some vaccination efforts and the risk of transmission of the virus is greater in crowded evacuation shelters.

Virus lockdown measures, meanwhile, could slow down relief work after the storm, and storm damage could destroy roads and cut vital supply lines for vaccines and medical supplies needed by patients. infected with the virus.

In Gujarat, vaccinations were suspended for two days and authorities struggled to evacuate hundreds of thousands of people to temporary relief shelters. Chief State Minister Vijay Rupani has asked officials to ensure that the oxygen supply to hospitals is not interrupted.

“These are special circumstances. The administration is busy with the challenges of COVID-19 and is now preparing to deal with the impact of the cyclone, ”Rupani said.

This May 16, 2021 photo provided by the Indian Ministry of Defense shows an Indian Air Force aircraft preparing to transport National Disaster Response Force personnel and equipment to Gujarat in preparation of Cyclone Tauktae, from Kolkata. [India’s Defence Ministry via AP]

The state administration has displaced nearly 150,000 people from coastal communities and deployed more than 50 disaster response teams.

The Gujarat Maritime Board, the state’s port regulator, has led the lifting of Signals VIII to X, indicating great danger, in state ports.

India’s largest private port at Mundra has suspended operations for the day, an official told Reuters.

Authorities are also concerned about the state’s Asian lions, an endangered species only found in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat, where the cyclone is expected to inflict maximum damage.

“There are about 40 lions in some patches on the Saurashtra coast, and we are watching them. Some lions have already moved to higher ground. We keep our fingers crossed and pray that the lions are safe, ”Shyamal Tikadar, chief forest conservator of Gujarat, told Reuters.

The 1998 cyclone that ravaged Gujarat killed at least 4,000 people and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage, media reported at the time.

India’s west coast is no stranger to devastating cyclones, but climate change has made them more intense, rather than more frequent.

In May 2020, nearly 100 people died after Cyclone Amphan, the most powerful storm to hit eastern India in more than a decade, which ravaged the region and left millions without electricity .


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