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Twenty dead as 'biggest storm in 30 years' makes landfall in western India

The storm made landfall in Gujarat state just after 8.30 pm local time.

A satellite image released NASA shows Cyclone Tauktae at western India
A satellite image released NASA shows Cyclone Tauktae at western India
Image: AP/PA Images

A DEADLY CYCLONE has reached land in western India with fierce winds and rains disrupting the country’s response to its devastating Covid-19 outbreak.

Cyclone Tauktae, which local reports called the biggest storm to hit the area in 30 years, has killed at least 20 people as it moved towards land over the weekend.

It made landfall in Gujarat state just after 8.30pm local time (3pm GMT) as an Extremely Severe Cyclonic Storm, packing winds of 155-165 kilometres per hour and gusts of up to 185 kph.

Officials reported that one woman died after high winds knocked over an electricity poll in the city of Patan in northern Gujarat.

Sea levels swelled as high as three metres along the coast, where wind speeds of 133 kph were also reported.

The colossal storm has exacerbated India’s embattled response to a coronavirus surge that is killing at least 4,000 people daily and pushing hospitals to breaking point.

In waterlogged and windswept Mumbai, where authorities closed the airport and urged people to stay indoors today, authorities moved 580 Covid patients to “safer locations” from three field hospitals.

Six people died and nine were injured as the storm lashed Maharashtra state, of which Mumbai is the capital.

Two navy ships were deployed to assist in search and rescue operations for a barge carrying 273 people adrift off Mumbai’s coast, of whom 28 have been picked up so far.

Seven people died and nearly 1,500 houses were damaged in Kerala state, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan tweeted this evening.

india-cyclone Commuters wade through a waterlogged street during a heavy rain in Mumbai Source: Rajanish Kakade

Covid patients evacuated

Around 200,000 people were evacuated in the state of Gujarat, where all Covid-19 patients in hospitals within five kilometres of the coast were also moved.

Authorities there sought to ensure that there would be no power cuts in the nearly 400 designated Covid hospitals and 41 oxygen plants in the region.

Chief minister Vijay Rupani told reporters that over 1,000 Covid hospitals in coastal towns were given generators and power backups, with 744 health teams deployed along with 174 intensive care units on wheels and 600 ambulances.

“Besides the daily requirement of 1,000 tonnes of oxygen in Gujarat per day, an additional stock of 1,700 tonnes has been secured and could be used in case of emergency,” Rupani said.

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Officials added that virus safety protocols such as mask-wearing, social distancing and the use of sanitisers would be observed in the shelters for evacuees.

The state also suspended vaccinations for two days. Mumbai did the same for one day.

Thousands of disaster response personnel have been deployed, while units from the coast guard, navy, army and air force have been placed on standby.

Maharashtra evacuated around 12,500 people from coastal areas.

Four people died on Saturday as rain and winds battered Karnataka state, while two died in Goa as winds hit power supplies and uprooted trees.

Earlier on Monday, India reported 4,100 deaths and 280,000 fresh Covid-19 cases in the past 24 hours, taking the total close to 25 million.

“This cyclone is a terrible double blow for millions of people in India whose families have been struck down by record Covid infections and deaths,” said Udaya Regmi from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

© AFP 2021

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