3 lakh people evacuated, rescue teams on standby as Gujarat on alert for Cyclone Vayu

Army, Indian Air Force, Naval, Indian Coast Guard and the National Disaster Relief Fund teams are on standby for rescue and relief operations, as Cyclone Vayu, now classified as a “very severe cyclonic storm” by the India Meteorological Department (IMD), is expected to make landfall on Thursday afternoon.

The IMD said Wednesday that the cyclone has a wind speed of 145 to 155 kmph gusting to 180 kmph and has changed its course, due to which it could now make a landfall between Dwarka and Veraval on the Saurashtra coast. IMD Ahmedabad Director Jayant Sarkar told reporters that the cyclone could now hit the Gujarat coast on Thursday afternoon, instead of early morning, as forecast earlier.

After touching Gujarat coast, the cyclone is likely to move parallel to Saurashtra and Kutch, bringing rain to Amreli, Gir Somnath, Diu, Junagarh, Porbandar, Rajkot, Jamnagar, Dwarka and Kutch.

The state government has launched a massive evacuation exercise to shift about 300,000 people from low-lying areas of Saurashtra and Kutch regions.

“We had earlier planned to shift only those living in kutchha (thatched) houses but in the wake of forecasts that the cyclone could be severe, decided to shift all the people in coastal villages,” Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, who had a review meeting with the state administration at the State Emergency Operations Centre, told reporters. “The government’s success would be in zero death,” Rupani added.

Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel said that they will be provided shelter in government buildings or those owned by various trusts and NGO.

Ten columns of the Army (each with 70 personnel) have been deployed in the 10 districts, as well as Morbi and Bhavnagar, while another 24 columns have been put on standby, a defence release said Wednesday.

The IAF has also positioned the medium lift and light utility helicopters at nodal points in the state. A highly mobile deployable radar has been placed at Gandhinagar to channelise helicopter operations and establish communication with control centres, the IAF said.

The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) has also deployed ships and aircraft to enable search and rescue post the landfall of the cyclonic storm. “We have positioned our aircraft at Daman and Ahmadabad and the ships at Mundra, Okha and Jakhau.

A ship from the western region has also been diverted to North West region for the post-cyclone landfall for providing search and rescue requirement and other emergency developing at sea off the Saurashtra and Kutch region,” it said.

The NDRF has deployed 40 teams in 15 districts of Gujarat, and four teams in Diu. In addition, six teams will be airlifted from Patna and INS Rajali.

The Western Naval Command, Mumbai is ready with Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) bricks, and relief material has already been embarked on board nominated ships, which are ready to be deployed at short notice. P8I and IL aircraft have been kept ready to undertake search and rescue missions.

A holiday has been declared in schools, colleges and anganwadis on June 12 and June 13 in these 10 districts.

Gujarat Chief Secretary J N Singh called up his Odisha counterpart A P Padhi on Wednesday. The eastern state successfully evacuated above 15 lakh people ahead of the landfall of Cyclone Fani near Puri in May.

“Gujarat chief secretary had called me up and discussed the measures to be taken ahead of the landfall. We have offered all help to Gujarat,” Padhi told reporters in Bhubaneswar.

“Praying for the safety and wellbeing 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,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a tweet on Wednesday.

Home minister Amit Shah also took to twitter, stating, “Gujarat has evacuated about 3 lakh people and Diu has evacuated over 10,000 people from low-lying areas to safer places…(the) MHA is in continuous touch with state govts/UT and central agencies. The NDRF has pre-positioned 52 teams equipped with boats, tree-cutters, telecom equipments etc.”

Private weather forecaster Skymet, however, predicted that the cyclone Vayu might not make a landfall over Gujarat.

“The cyclone will not directly hit Gujarat but likely brush past the coast of Porbandar on Wednesday morning. However, the system is still very close to the landmass and there will still be heavy rainfall. As the system moves north it will meet an anticyclone south of Karachi, which will restrict the movement of the cyclone and delay its progress,” said Mahesh Palawat, vice president of meteorology and climate change at Skymet Weather.

Aircraft, trains cancelled

Flight operations will remain suspended at five airports in Gujarat for 24 hours from Thursday 12 AM, the Airports Authority of India announced.

The Western Railway has decided to short-terminate 28 trains and cancel 40 trains, including Veraval-Amreli Passenger, Amreli-Junagadh, Delvada-Veraval, on Wednesday and Thursday. The WR has also decided to run relief special trains. Two evacuation special trains are scheduled to run in Rajkot and one in Bhavnagar.

Special trains with six to 10 coaches each will also be kept ready at the nearest safe location to be moved in emergency conditions, it said. Fishing vessels have also been advised to return to the harbour.

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