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Vayu brings Gujarat on high alert: Citizens on tenterhooks as a 1998 cyclone took 10,000 lives

Gujrat on hig aler, Cyclone Vayu, Cyclone in Gujrat
Image Courtesy: Moneycontrol

It is a major relief for millions of people in Gujarat as severe Cyclone Vayu which was set to make landfall on Thursday along the Gujarat coast, has changed its course and moved into the sea. According to the Indian Meteorological Department, Cyclone Vayu has changed its trajectory overnight and is now moving further into the sea. However, it has warned that the cyclone can cause substantial damage even without hitting the ground, asks citizens to remain alert. In spite of this, the region will experience the effect of strong winds and heavy rains. In 1998, a severe cyclone had killed 10,000 people and over 11,000 animals in Gujarat. It had damaged the port city of Kandla.

It is worth mentioning that Cyclone Vayu is the second deadliest cyclone to hit the state since 1998 that had ravaged port town Kandla killing 1,241 persons. This is also the second severe cyclonic storm to hit the country this year.  Earlier in May the eastern coast of India was hit by Cyclone Fani, leaving a trail of destruction in Odisha. Cyclonic storm Fani left 64 persons dead and at least 241 people injured last month. The worst-hit Puri and Khurda districts of the state are yet struggling to come back on the track.

The secretary at the Ministry of Earth Sciences M Rajeevan told PTI, “Cyclone Vayu may not make landfall. It will only skirt the coast. It has made a small deviation. But, its effect will be there with strong winds and heavy rain,”

The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) tweeted, “ Cyclone ‘VAYU’ over the Arabian Sea at 0530 hrs IST of today, the 13th June 2019  about 150 km south-southwest of Diu, 110 km southwest of Veraval (Gujarat) & 150 km south of Porbandar (Gujarat).To skirt Saurashtra coast with wind speed 135-145 kmph from today afternoon.”

Gujarat is still on alert. Nearly 3 lakh people from low-lying areas had already been evacuated and shifted to safer locations before the arrival of the cyclone. The Indian Army, Navy, and NDRF were put on standby for any emergencies. They continue to be on alert even after the threat of the cyclone has reduced.

Meanwhile, flight operations from Ahmedabad to Porbandar, Diu, Kandla, Mundra, and Bhavnagar, continued to remain cancelled for Thursday. Many trains are also cancelled.

Prior to this, the 1998 Gujarat cyclone was a deadly tropical cyclone that killed at least 10,000 people in India. It made landfall on June 4, 1998, and dissipated on June 10, 1998. Over 11,000 animals were killed. Over 162,000 structures were damaged or destroyed throughout the affected area and damages amounted to Rs 120 billion.

The 2015 Gujarat cyclone, officially referred to as Deep Depression ARB 02, brought heavy rains to Gujarat in June 2015. It made landfall on 22 June 2015 and dissipated on 24 June 2015. Following heavy rains, Gujarat was affected by floods. The flood is also known as the June 2015 Gujarat flood or 2015 Amreli flood. The floods resulted in at least 81 deaths. The wildlife of Gir Forest National Park and the adjoining area was also affected. The Gir Forest National Park and adjoining area housing Asiatic lions, an endangered species with only 523 living individuals documented in May 2015, was severely affected. The carcasses of 10 lions, 1670 Nilgai, 87 spotted deer, nine black bucks, six wild boars and some porcupines were also recovered.

In 2017, very severe cyclonic storm Ockhi devastated parts of Sri Lanka and India. In its entirety, Cyclone Ockhi left a trail of massive destruction in Sri Lanka, Lakshadweep, South India, and The Maldives, as it strengthened from a depression to a mature cyclone. Though it rapidly weakened during its final stages over the Arabian Sea, it caused heavy rainfall along the western coast of India, particularly in Maharashtra and Gujarat. Ockhi caused at least 245 fatalities, including 218 in India and 27 in Sri Lanka, and the storm left at least 550 people missing, mainly fishermen.

Gujarat in constant touch with Odisha

The Gujarat government is in constant touch with Odisha in view of the eastern state’s successful handing of similar calamities like cyclone Fani in May this year and cyclone Titli last year. According to sources, Gujarat chief secretary JN Singh called up his Odisha counterpart AP Padhi and sought Odisha’s advice on how to tackle the cyclonic storm on a war-footing. Padhi said, “Gujarat chief secretary had called me up and discussed the measures to be taken ahead of the landfall. We have offered all kind of help to Gujarat. However, the Gujarat chief secretary has said that they will seek further help if required keeping the situation in view.” The Odisha government offered all help to Gujarat, which has launched a massive evacuation exercise to shift people from low-lying areas of Saurashtra and Kutch regions.

Here is a list of Dos and Donts to keep people safe and alert during the tough times.

During/after the cyclone (if indoors)

  • Switch off electrical mains, gas supply.
  • Keep doors and windows shut.
  • If your house is unsafe, leave early before the onset of the cyclone.
  • Listen to a radio/transistor.
  • Drink boiled/chlorinated water.
  • Rely only on official warnings.

During/after the cyclone (if outdoors)

  • Don’t enter damaged buildings.
  • Watch out for broken electric poles, wires, other sharp objects.
  • Seek a safe shelter ASAP.

For fishermen

  • Keep a radio set with extra batteries handy.
  • Keep boats/rafts tied in a safe place.
  • Don’t venture out to sea.
  • Avoid listening to rumours at such times.

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