A police officer holds an umbrella to protect himself from the rain as he enforces a lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus in Kochi, Kerala state, India, Sunday, May 16, 2021.
A police officer holds an umbrella to protect himself from the rain as he enforces a lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus in Kochi, Kerala state, India, Sunday, May 16, 2021. Image Credit: AP

Mumbai: India is preparing to evacuate thousands of people from low-lying areas along its western coast as a powerful cyclone is expected to make landfall on Tuesday morning in the state of Gujarat.

“It is very likely to intensify further during the 24 hours, and move north-northwestwards and reach Gujarat coast in the evening of 17th (May),” the India Meteorological Department said in a statement.

Cyclone Tauktae, which formed in the Arabian sea, is expected to cross Gujarat with wind gusts of up to 175 kmph and is expected to make landfall in the state the following morning.

The meteorological agency also warned that there could be destruction of houses and flooding of escape routes. Disruption to railway services was also expected until May 21.

The National Crisis Management Committee also chaired a meeting with different states on Sunday and said that nearly 80 disaster management teams have been deployed in different states.

Rescue and relief teams from the army, navy and coast guard along with ships and aircraft have also been deployed.

“All measures being taken to evacuate people in the areas affected by the cyclone so as to ensure zero loss of life,” the government said in a statement.

Evacuation of people from the coastal areas has started, said Gujarat’s revenue secretary Pankaj Kumar. “We will be evacuating more than 100,000 people.” The cyclone will also pose challenges for the state-administration that is dealing with a high case load of COVID-19 patients.

Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani has asked officials to ensure that electricity supply to COVID-19 hospitals and other medical facilities is not disrupted while oxygen supply is maintained, the state government’s statement said. Vaccinations have also been suspended for the next two days.

In the neighbouring state of Maharashtra, the government has moved COVID-19 patients admitted to makeshift centres in the state capital, Mumbai, to other hospitals as the cyclone advances towards Gujarat, the chief minister’s office said.

Gujarat is also home to large refineries and sea ports that may end up being in the storm’s path.

All necessary precautions are being taken at the Jamnagar refinery, the world’s biggest oil refinery complex, owned by Reliance Industries, a company spokesperson told Reuters.

Operations at Mundra port, India’s largest private port, in Gujarat are continuing normally, two officials at the port told Reuters on Sunday morning.

“We are observing the situation, and will take action accordingly,” an official said.

Authorities at Kandla Port, the largest government-run port in the country, said that steps have been taken to evacuate around 5,000 people from low lying areas.

“We have already issued an advisory, and have stopped taking any vessels inside. There will be no berthing tomorrow morning, and all vessels will be sent to the high seas,” S.K. Mehta, chairman of Kandla Port, said.