Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes in India as a severe cyclone barreled toward landfall on India’s northwest state of Gujarat Sunday evening.
Heavy rainfall and winds from the Cyclone Tauktae, which originated in the Arabian Sea, had already pounded some states along India’s western coast, causing power outages, downing trees and resulting in at least six deaths, according to the Reuters news agency. Four of the six deaths were in the southern state of Karnataka, where more than 70 coastal villages were affected, according the state’s disaster management authority.
The cyclone, which was classified as a “very severe cyclonic storm” on Saturday, was likely to intensify over the next day, the India Meteorological Department said in a briefing Sunday afternoon. Forecasters said that it would reach the coast of Gujarat, one of India’s largest states, on Sunday, with winds gusting as high as about 115 miles per hour.
The department said it expected a tidal wave of up to nine feet in some areas, with the heaviest rainfalls in some areas in Gujarat on Monday. Gujarat government officials said almost 150,000 people were being evacuated from vulnerable areas on the coast by Sunday evening, Reuters reported.
Officials ordered the suspension of fishing operations in parts of the east central Arabian Sea and along the western coast in some areas of India, with fishermen being advised not to venture out into the sea near the Gujarat coast until Monday.
The cyclone comes as India is grappling with a devastating coronavirus surge driven by a newer variant of the virus that has left hospitals filled to capacity and sick people struggling to get care. As of Saturday evening, 266,207 people in India had died from the virus, which experts say is almost certainly an undercount of the full death toll.
Officials have also effectively suspended vaccinations, including in the city of Mumbai, until Tuesday.
As the cyclone neared, dozens of disaster management teams have been deployed in several states, along with army, navy and coast guard units, the government said, adding in a statement on Sunday it was taking steps to ensure “zero loss of life.”
In Gujarat, officials on Sunday said that arrangements had been made for patients at coronavirus centers to continue to receive treatment. Hospitals were sealing windows and doors to windproof them, and more than 170 mobile intensive care unit vans were being deployed to provide emergency care, according to local media.
Heavy rainfall on Friday from Cyclone Tauktae has already led to the evacuation of 15,000 people from low-lying areas. They were temporarily relocated to camps in the southern state of Kerala, according to the Hindustan Times.