According to the latest weather report, the cyclone has intensified into a “very severe cyclonic storm” and changed its course slightly.
Ahmedabad: As Cyclone Vayu advances towards the Gujarat coast and is expected to make landfall Thursday afternoon, the state government has shifted around three lakh people from low-lying areas of Saurashtra and Kutch regions, officials said Wednesday.
According to the latest weather report, the cyclone has intensified into a “very severe cyclonic storm” and changed its course slightly. Now, it would hit the Gujarat coast anywhere between Veraval in the south and Dwarka in the west Thursday afternoon. The cyclone is now located around 200 km south, south-west of Veraval and “is very likely to move nearly northwards and hit the Gujarat coast with wind speed of 155 to 165 kmph gusting to 180 kmph around afternoon of June 13,” a release issued by the MeT department said.
“Gujarat has evacuated about 3 lakh people and Diu has evacuated over 10,000 people from low-lying areas to safer places. Indian Coast Guard, Navy, Army & Air Force units have also been put on standby. Aircraft and helicopters are carrying out aerial surveillance,” Union Home Minister Amit Shah tweeted. The Airports Authority of India announced that flight operations will remain suspended at five airports in Gujarat for 24 hours from midnight Wednesday to minimise the damage to airport infrastructure and to avoid inconvenience to passengers due to the cyclone.
State Relief director M R Kothari said, “The evacuation process, which was started today morning, is nearing its end. Our target is to shift around three lakh people to safer places”. After making landfall, the cyclone “is likely to move along and parallel to Saurashtra and Kutch coast”, the Met department said. The state government said the cyclone is likely to affect Kutch, Morbi, Jamnagar, Junagadh, Devbhoomi-Dwarka, Porbandar, Rajkot, Amreli, Bhavnagar and Gir-Somnath districts.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi Wednesday advised people in his home state to follow real-time information being given by local agencies to stay safe. “Praying for safety and well-being of all those affected by Cyclone Vayu. The government and local agencies are providing real-time information, which I urge those in affected areas to closely follow,” Modi tweeted. After a review meeting with officials this afternoon, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said around three lakh people living in low-lying areas of these 10 districts will be shifted to safer places. He also appealed to people to cooperate in the evacuation process so that there is no loss of life.
The Coast Guard, Army, Navy, Air Force and the Border Security Force have been put on high alert. While the state government has said all fishermen and their boats have already returned to the shore after getting the warning, ports have been asked to hoist storm warning signal number 8 and 9 to convey “great danger”. Based on the India Meteorological Department’s (IMD) advice, Great Danger 8 (GD-8) signal has been hoisted at Porbandar and Okha ports, while GD-9 signal has been hoisted at Diu, Veraval, Navlakhi, New-Kandla, Sikka, Mundra, Madvi and Jakhau ports.
Briefing the media about preparations to deal with the cyclone, Additional Chief Secretary, Revenue, Pankaj Kumar said police would do night patrolling in vulnerable areas to make sure no one is left behind. “Our aim is to ensure zero casualty. We appeal to outsiders to refrain from visiting vulnerable areas near the coast. We have deployed 33 teams, each having 90 to 100 personnel, of National Disaster Response Force and nine teams of State Disaster Response Force in these 10 districts,” he said. In addition, 11 columns of Army, two companies of BSF, 14 companies of State Reserve Police and 300 commandos of state marine police were also deployed at different locations in Kutch and Saurashtra region, the officer added.
A defence release said the Army has allotted 24 columns on standby and is ready to carry out any rescue and relief operations. Each column has a strength of about 70 people from infantry/artillery, signal, engineers and Army medical corps. It further informed that ships and aircraft of this region were dispersed at various places to enable search and rescue readiness post landfall of cyclone. Holiday has been declared in schools, colleges and ‘anganwadis’ on Wednesday and Thursday in these 10 districts, he said.
As a precautionary measure, the Indian Railways has announced that all the trains for this region have been either short-terminated or cancelled for two days, starting 6 pm Wednesday. “The state government has decided to suspend operations at all the ports situated on Gujarat’s coast. As a precautionary measure, all the airports in Saurashtra region will remain shut till the cyclone recedes. Bus services to pilgrimage sites in that region have also been cancelled,” Rupani said after the review meet in Gandhinagar.
In a release, the Western Railway said it has cancelled trains going towards Kutch and Saurashtra region for two days. To help authorities in relief and rescue work, the railways has kept special trains ready for deployment in those areas after the cyclone makes landfall. “Special trains with six to 10 coaches each will be formed, to be kept in ready condition at the nearest safe location to be moved in emergency conditions,” the release said. Since all the airports in Kutch and Saurashtra region have been asked to shut their operations completely, flights to these destinations from Ahmedabad Airport stand cancelled for Thursday.