Cyclone Tauktae: Indian states put on alert ahead of storm

The National Disaster Response Force personnel clearing fallen trees from a road following severe cyclonic storm 'Tauktae' at Margao in Goa [National Disaster Response Force/AFP]

At least four people have died in torrential rain and winds as coronavirus-hit India braces for a powerful cyclone, officials said on Sunday, with tens of thousands set to be evacuated from their homes.

Cyclone Tauktae – India’s first major tropical storm this season – is moving northwards in parallel with the country’s western coast, bringing heavy rains, thunderstorms and strong winds to several states, the meteorological department said.

The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) issued an “orange alert” for the western state of Maharashtra which is likely to face heavy rainfall.

It is expected to make land in coastal Gujarat as early as Monday night, bringing wind speeds of approximately 150-160km/h (93-99 mph), the weather bureau added.

Four people died on Saturday as torrential rain and winds battered Karnataka state, the disaster management authority said on Sunday.

Several towns and villages were flooded and properties damaged, officials added.

Two others were reported dead and 23 fishermen were feared missing in the neighbouring state of Kerala, local media said.

Up to 75,000 people are set to be evacuated from coastal districts in Gujarat, where a COVID-19 vaccination rollout will be suspended on Monday and Tuesday, officials told AFP.

Fishermen are seen next to boats being moored at a fishing village coast in preparation for Cyclone Tauktae in Mumbai [Indranil Mukherjee/AFP]

COVID hospitals in the affected districts were also backing up their power supply, local district development officer Varunkumar Baranwal told AFP.

Oxygen and power supply to hospitals in the state would be uninterrupted, Maharashtra said, while hundreds of COVID patients will be moved from field hospitals.

India is already battling a deadly wave of infections that has pushed its healthcare system to breaking point, leading to severe shortages of hospital beds, oxygen and medicines.

The vast nation of 1.3 billion people reported just over 311,170 new infections on Sunday, taking the total tally to nearly 24.7 million.

The death toll rose to more than 270,000 after 4,077 deaths were officially recorded over the past 24 hours. Experts say the actual toll could be significantly higher.

Last May, more than 110 people died after the “super cyclone” Amphan ravaged eastern India and Bangladesh, flattening villages, destroying farms and leaving millions without electricity.


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