INDIA.Mumbai: As anticipated the torrential rains and fierce winds, influenced by Cyclone Tauktae in the Arabian Sea, left a trail of destruction in coastal areas of Kerala, when hundreds of families living close to the sea had to abandon their homes and rush to relief camps set up by the state government in the face of massive sea-incursions on Saturday evening.
The gusty winds with speeds of 50-60 kmph gusting to 70 kmph along and off the Kerala-Karnataka coast impacted the area from Thiruvananthapuram in the south to Kasaragod in the north, which also experienced power cuts. Several houses close to the sea in districts like Kasaragod, Kannur, Kozhikode, Thrissur, Ernakulam, and Alappuzha were partially or completely damaged by the impact of the cyclone. In Ernakulam district’s Chellanam village, prone to prolonged sea incursions, several homes were flooded with residents fleeing to homes of their relatives or relief camps.
In the Idukki district, the roof of the Kalvari Mount LP School was collapsed and a temporary bridge in Kaipani near Nilambur in Malappuram district was washed away in the rain. The sluice gates of three dams – Bhoothathankettu, Kallarkutty, and Malankara – were opened to release excess water from the reservoir. The IMD has predicted that it will turn into a ‘very severe cyclonic storm’ in the next 24 hours.
While the rains lashed Ratnagiri district, over 700 fishing boats were brought ashore and anchored at Vijaydurg and Devgad in Sindhudurg district. They included 13 fishing boats from outside Maharashtra. Speaking to the “Transcontinental Times” Joint Fisheries Commissioner Rajendra Jadhav said that all the fishing boats which had gone for deep-sea fishing have returned to the shore and the situation is being reviewed time to time..
As a precursor to the cyclone, Thane, Ambernath, Badlapur and Navi Mumbai adjoining Mumbai, witnessed heavy rains on Saturday night. Besides, as a precautionary measure 580 patients admitted to COVID care Centre located at Dahisar, BKC, and Mulund in Mumbai were shifted to other hospitals on Saturday.
The IMD has cautioned that there will be heavy rainfall accompanied by strong winds at isolated places on Sunday over north Konkan, including Mumbai. The Senior Director (weather) IMD, Mumbai Shubhani Bhute, said that at present the storm is 250 km south-west of Goa. Goa along with Sindhudurg and Ratnagiri districts would be most affected in terms of showers and gusty winds and the wind speeds would be around 60 to 70 kmph.
The IMD has issued an `orange alert’ indicating heavy to very heavy rainfall over the entire Konkan and hilly areas of western Maharashtra, mainly Kolhapur and Satara on Sunday and Monday, Bhute said.
With cyclone heading towards the Gujarat coast, the Western Railway (WR) on Saturday cancelled 56 trains till May 21. Some trains were short terminated. All cancelled trains originate or terminate in cities in the Saurashtra region. The cancelled trains include 11 trains on May 16, 22 on May 17, 13 on May 18, five on May 19, and one each on May 20 and 21, the WR said in a release. Most of these trains terminate in cities like Bhuj, Porbandar, Gandhidham, Bhavnagar, Rajkot, Surendranagar, Veraval, and Okha.
IMD stated that the cyclone is expected to touch the Gujarat coast between Porbandar and Naliya around May 18 afternoon /evening with the wind speed ranging up to 175 kmph. It is likely to cause heavy rainfall in the coastal districts of Gujarat, including extremely heavy falls in Junagadh and Gir Somnath and heavy to very heavy rainfall at a few places in the districts of Saurashtra Kutch and Diu namely Gir Somnath, Junagadh, Porbandar, Devbhoomi Dwarka, Amreli, Rajkot, Jamnagar. IMD also warned of storm surge of about 2- 3 m above astronomical tide to inundate coastal areas of Morbi, Kutch, Devbhoomi Dwarka, and Jamnagar districts and 1-2 meters along Porbandar, Junagarh, Diu, Gir Somnath, Amreli, Bhavnagar, and 0.5 to 1 mtr over the remaining coastal districts of Gujarat during May 18 afternoon/ evening around the time of landfall.
PM reviews the situation
Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a high-level meeting to review the preparedness of states and central ministries/agencies concerned to deal with the situation arising out of the cyclone on Saturday evening. He called for ensuring maintenance of all essential services such as power, telecommunications, health, and drinking water and their immediate restoration in the event of damages caused to them, a PMO statement said.
The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has increased the number of teams from 53 to 100 to undertake relief and rescue measures given the impending cyclone. Each NDRF team has a strength of a total of 47 personnel and hence, the total manpower identified for the task is 4,700 rescuers.
Indian Coast Guard and the Indian Navy have deployed ships and helicopters for relief, search and rescue operations. Air Force and Engineer task force units of Army, with boats and rescue equipment, are on standby for deployment. Seven ships with Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Units are on standby along the western coast. Surveillance aircraft and helicopters are carrying out aerial surveillance along the western coast. Disaster Relief Teams (DRTs) and Medical Teams (MTs) are on standby at Trivandrum, Kannur, and other locations along the western coast.
The country’s premier container port the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust(JNPT) near Navi Mumbai, on Saturday said that all inward shipping movements will remain suspended till the easing of weather conditions as part of a cyclone warning. The JNPT in a release, said it has opened a control room for three days, starting May 15. The JNPT is likely to experience sustained high wind speeds due to which various steps are being taken to mitigate the impact of the cyclone on the port property and ships in JNPT waters, the government-owned port operator said.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) has kept 16 transport aircraft and 18 helicopters ready in peninsular India as a preparation for the cyclone. An IAF aircraft IL-76 airlifted 127 personnel along with 11 tonnes of cargo from Bhatinda (Punjab) to Jamnagar (Gujarat) on Saturday. Besides, C-130 aircraft airlifted 25 personnel and 12.3 tonnes of cargo from Bhatinda to Rajkot, and the other two C-130 aircraft airlifted 126 personnel and 14 tonnes of cargo from Bhubaneswar(Odisha) to Jamnagar.
The ministries gear up
The Union Ministry of Power has activated emergency response systems and is keeping in readiness transformers, DG sets, and equipment, etc. for immediate restoration of electricity. The Union Ministry of Telecom has been keeping a watch on all the telecom towers and exchanges and is geared up to restore the telecom network in case of a breakdown. The Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare has issued an advisory to the states/ UTs, likely to be affected, for health sector preparedness and response on COVID-19 in affected areas. It has also kept ready 10 Quick response medical teams and 5 Public health response teams, with emergency medicines. The Union Ministry of Port, Shipping, and Waterways has taken measures to secure all shipping vessels and has deployed emergency vessels.
India is no stranger to intense tropical cyclones as the extremely large Peninsular region of the country having a long Eastern coast and Western Coast has faced several tropical cyclones in the past with the Odisha cyclone of 1999 being the most severe. The densely populated cities besides the sea and warm conditions of the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal further aids the development of cyclones and resultant damage. The Maharashtra suffered heavy damage due to the cyclone “Nisarga” which mainly affected the Konkan region last year.