India is evacuating thousands of people from low-lying areas along its western coast as a powerful cyclone that has killed at least six people is expected to make landfall on Tuesday morning in the state of Gujarat.
- Cyclone Tauktae is the first major storm of the season
- About 150,000 people will be evacuated from villages and low-lying areas in Gujarat
- COVID vaccinations in the state have been suspended for two days
Cyclone Tauktae, which formed in the Arabian sea, has already damaged houses and uprooted trees in parts of western and southern India.
“It is very likely to intensify further during the 24 hours, and move north-northwestwards and reach Gujarat coast in the evening of 17th [May],” the India Meteorological Department said in a statement.
The cyclone is expected to cross the coast with wind gusts of up to 175kph.
Nearly 150,000 people will be moved from villages and low-lying areas near the coast.
The Gujarat government said it hopes to complete the evacuation process by Sunday evening local time.
As the cyclone has moved north, at least six people have been killed in the western states of Goa and Karnataka, according to officials and statements.
Further south, 31 boats registered with the state of Tamil Nadu were missing, a coastguard official said.
The meteorological agency also warned that there could be flooding of escape routes. Disruption to railway services was also expected until May 21.
The National Crisis Management Committee also chaired a meeting with different states on Sunday and said that nearly 80 disaster management teams have been deployed in different states.
COVID-19 vaccinations suspended
Rescue and relief teams from the army, navy and coastguard, along with ships and aircraft, have also been deployed.
“All measures being taken to evacuate people in the areas affected by the cyclone so as to ensure zero loss of life,” the government said in a statement.
In Gujarat, the cyclone will also pose challenges for the state administration that is dealing with a high case load of COVID-19 patients.
Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani has asked officials to ensure that electricity supplies to COVID-19 hospitals and other medical facilities are not disrupted and the supply of oxygen is maintained, the state government said.
However vaccinations have been suspended for the next two days.
In the neighbouring state of Maharashtra, the government has moved COVID-19 patients admitted to makeshift centres in the state capital, Mumbai, to other hospitals.
Large refineries and ports in Gujarat may also be affected.
Authorities at Kandla Port, the largest government-run port in the country, said they had taken precautions.
“We have already issued an advisory, and have stopped taking any vessels inside. There will be no berthing tomorrow morning, and all vessels will be sent to the high seas,” S.K. Mehta, chairman of Kandla Port, said.