A severe cyclonic storm made landfall on India’s west coast, home to major refineries and ports, causing heavy rain and strong winds at a time when the nation is already battling the world’s worst outbreak of COVID-19.
Cyclone Tauktae, equivalent of a category 3 hurricane, slammed India’s western Gujarat state late on Monday, with wind speed surging as high as 190 kilometers (118 miles) per hour, according to the India Meteorological Department. The landfall process will be completed in three hours, the national weather forecaster said in a statement.
Heavy downpours in some areas, including in the financial hub of Mumbai, will continue for the next 12 hours, while sea waves of as high as 4 meters above normal tides are likely to inundate some coastal places, the weather office added.
Authorities have taken several preventive measures, including evacuating people and suspending fishing operations, to minimize the cyclone’s impact in the country, which is currently the global epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic. Hospitals and crematoriums in India are getting overwhelmed amid the world’s fastest-surging outbreak. Any disruption from the cyclone could worsen the already-existing shortages of medical supplies from oxygen cylinders to vaccines.
Mumbai, the capital of neighboring Maharashtra state that escaped the worst of the storm, canceled coronavirus vaccinations at public centers on Monday. More than 600 patients were moved from the so-called jumbo facilities — makeshift hospitals to accommodate the surge in infections — to government-run hospitals. The city’s international airport was shut for most of the day.
Almost two dozen ports on the west coast from Goa to Gujarat were put on high alert, according to a tweet by the shipping and ports ministry. The Gujarat Maritime Board asked port authorities to suspend loading and unloading operations and drift all ships, including liquefied natural gas vessels and oil tankers, to high seas, according to a state government official handling port operations.
More than 6,500 fishing boats and trawlers out in the sea were shepherded back to safety by the Indian Coast Guard that has deployed ships, aircraft and relief teams along the western coast of India. The Indian Air Force deployed its fleet of heavy transport aircraft to ferry rescue teams and materials from various parts of India to the west coast.
Dozens of teams from the National Disaster Response Force have been deployed in several states, including Gujarat, Maharashtra, Kerala and Karnataka.
–With assistance from Anirban Nag, Sudhi Ranjan Sen, Anurag Kotoky, Jeanette Rodrigues, Faseeh Mangi and Karthikeyan Sundaram.
Photograph: A policeman helps a public transport driver to cross a flooded street due to heavy rain caused by Cyclone Tauktae in Mumbai, India. Photo credit: Ashish Vaishnav/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images.
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