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India's Gujarat state braces for most severe cyclone in over two decades

Around 150,000 people were evacuated from their homes in Gujarat state on the western coast of India on Monday, hours before a massive cyclone was set to make landfall.

Authorities also closed several ports and suspended COVID-19 vaccinations.

Cyclone Tauktae, India's most severe cyclone in over two decades, has killed 12 people so far. The storm also destroyed infrastructure in the coastal states of Kerala, Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra.

Strong winds and heavy rains lashed the financial hub of Mumbai, causing flooding.

'Extremely severe'

According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), the cyclone was expected to make landfall on Monday evening in Gujarat with winds of up to 175 kilometers (109 miles) per hour.

The IMD categorized the storm as "extremely severe," upgrading it from the "very severe" category.

State Revenue Secretary Pankaj Kumar said Tauktae will be "the most severe cyclone to hit Gujarat in at least 20 years."

"This can be compared with the 1998 cyclone that hit Kandla and inflicted heavy damage," Kumar told Reuters.

The 1998 cyclone that tore through Gujarat killed at least 4,000 people and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage, local media reported at the time.

Storm amid deadly virus surge

Cyclone Tauktae comes at a time when India is already battling a devastating surge of COVID-19 infections that is killing at least 4,000 people every day.

Gujarat health authorities suspended COVID-19 vaccinations for two days.

State chief minister Vijay Rupani requested officials to ensure that oxygen supplies for hospitals are not disrupted during the storm.

According to Kumar, 1,383 power backups have been installed to ensure coronavirus hospitals are not faced with power outages.

"Thirty-five 'green corridors' have also been made for supply of oxygen to COVID hospitals," he said.

Gujarat authorities are continuing to evacuate hundreds of thousands of people to temporary relief shelters, prompting concerns over increased risk of virus transmission in crowded shelters.

Mumbai, meanwhile, closed its airport for several hours on Monday and urged people to stay indoors. A day earlier, 580 COVID-19 patients were transferred "to safer locations" from three field hospitals.

mvb/nm (AP, Reuters, AFP)


Updated : 2021-09-23 04:02 GMT+08:00