India

Cyclone Tauktae wreaks havoc in several Indian states, thousands evacuated

An uprooted tree is seen fallen on a car after strong winds caused by Cyclone Tauktae, in Mumbai, India, May 18, 2021.
An uprooted tree is seen fallen on a car after strong winds caused by Cyclone Tauktae, in Mumbai, India, May 18, 2021. REUTERS - FRANCIS MASCARENHAS

A severe cyclonic storm lashed 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.

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India's financial capital, Mumbai and the coastal belt of western Maharashtra reeled with 12 people dead and over 17 injured as it made its way to landfall in Gujarat. More than 15,000 people were evacuated to safer areas.

The landfall process of cyclonic storm Tauktae, the most powerful cyclone in more than two decades, finished late on Monday night in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat, said the India Meteorological Department (IMD). At least four other people have lost their lives in Gujarat, two in Goa, and six in Karnataka, according to state officials.

 “High-speed winds uprooted many trees and electricity poles, partially damaged two buildings besides many houses and in two districts neighboring Mumbai on Monday as the cyclonic storm barreled towards Gujarat,” an IMD official told RFI. 

“It is now weakened to a severe cyclonic storm after its landfall when it was packing gusts of up to 210 kilometers per hour.”

The storm caused massive destruction, damaging hundreds of houses, uprooting electricity poles and trees and forcing evacuation in low-lying areas.

The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) said it has evacuated thousands of stranded people in the last three days in Gujarat, Kerala and Daman and Diu. Rains from the storm lashed Kerala, Karnataka and Goa over the weekend as the cyclone moved along the western coastline.

Meanwhile, special arrangements were made in hospitals treating Covid-19 patients to ensure uninterrupted electricity. Hundreds of ambulances have been kept on standby to shift patients in cases of emergency. In Gujarat, the vaccination drive was suspended for two days.

“Doctors and medical staff had been sent to the affected states along with 100 rescue and relief teams,” S N Pradhan,” NDRF chief told RFI.

Waves caused by Cyclone Tauktae crash up on the promenade near the Gateway of India monument in Mumbai, India, May 17, 2021.
Waves caused by Cyclone Tauktae crash up on the promenade near the Gateway of India monument in Mumbai, India, May 17, 2021. REUTERS - NIHARIKA KULKARNI

“For the last three days, we have been involved in the evacuation of those in harm's way. More than 200,000 people have been evacuated,” he added. 

India's navy said it had rescued 146 people from one of two barges that were adrift near the Mumbai coastline, adding that surveillance planes and helicopters had been deployed to scour the seas. There were 400 people on board altogether.

“We have also deployed the P-8I long-range, multimission maritime patrol aircraft to join the search and rescue operations,” a senior navy officer told RFI.

Major airports in Gujarat shut down operations as a precautionary measure.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had reviewed the preparedness to deal with the cyclone's fallout in a high-level meeting which was attended by several ministries and agencies concerned.

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