Citizens living on the country’s west coast got an eerie flashback of 2020’s pandemic-induced lockdown. It was almost the same time last year that Cyclone Nisarga had ravaged the state of Maharashtra and caused damages of nearly 803 Million USD. This year it is Cyclone Tauktae that has made its way to India’s western coast.
Cyclone Tauktae is classified as an “extremely severe cyclonic storm”. It is expected to make landfall in Bhavnagar in Gujarat between 10 PM and 11 PM on Monday, 17th May 2021. It passed 145 KM west of Mumbai in the morning and lashed the city with torrential rains and gusty winds. It was moving at a speed of 15 KM per hour.
The cyclone has been travelling across India’s western coast for two days. It brought heavy rainfall and winds to Kerela, Karnataka and, Goa on Sunday. It has forced the evacuation of lakhs of people from coastal areas. So far, the cyclone has claimed six lives- four in Karnataka and two in Goa. There were incidences of uprooted trees, electric poles being damaged, and houses collapsing in the storm’s wake. In Kerela, heavy rains in catchment areas prompted the authorities to sound an alert.
As it moved northwards, Maharashtra and Gujarat prepared for facing the storm. There were very heavy to extremely heavy rainfalls in North Konkan, Mumbai, Thane, Palghar, and Raigad regions of Maharashtra. Mumbai Airport has been shut until the storm clears. 2,200 fishing boats from Gujarat and 4,500 fishing boats from Maharashtra returned to harbour. Merchant ships in the region were alerted or re-routed, and Oil rigs were also warned.
In Gujarat, 25000 people from low-lying areas in Bhavnagar have been evacuated. In all, 1.5 Lakh people have been shifted across the state. Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani urged people to stay inside. Massive damage is expected in the coastal areas of Gujarat, including damage to thatched houses, communication lines, salt pans, and crops.
Search and Rescue Operations are underway in Kerela, aided by the Navy. The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has activated over 100 teams. Quick Response Medical and Public Health teams have also been deployed in the field. The Air Force has deployed two C-130J and one An-32 aircraft to move 167 NDRF personnel and 16.5 tonnes of equipment to Ahemdabad from Kolkata. The Navy is on standby in Gujarat. There are 54 NDRF and SDRF teams in Gujarat.
The cyclone comes at a time when the country is grappling with a devastating second wave of the pandemic. Maharashtra Chief Minister’s office said that the state would ensure power and oxygen supply to covid facilities. Covid and non-Covid facilities in coastal areas of the state were also relocated. The Gujarat CM also urged his officials to ensure electric supply along with other essential services to hospitals. PM Modi also asked the country’s largest medical oxygen supplier- the Reliance Industries’ refinery in Jamnagar to ensure the least disruption in oxygen supply.