Cyclone Vayu to hit Gujarat on Thursday, thousands being evacuated

Ahmedabad: Even as severe heat wave conditions prevailed, Gujarat is readying for Cyclone Vayu that is likely to make a landfall on the state’s coast on Thursday, while teams of state and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) are taking up positions in all the coastal districts, officials said on Tuesday.

Gujarat Chief Secretary J.N. Singh told reporters in Gandhinagar that going by information from the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), the cyclone was likely to make a landfall near Veraval between 6 am and 7 am on Thursday.

“It would be anywhere between Veraval and Diu (in Saurashtra region), but most probably it would be near Veraval in Gir-Somnath district,” he added.

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J.N. Singh later in the evening apprised a meeting of the National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC) chaired by Union Cabinet Secretary Pradeep Kumar Singh, that around 2.8 lakh people from the vulnerable areas along the coast would be evacuated from Wednesday.

Cyclone Vayu, which was located around 690 km south of Veraval on Tuesday morning, could hit at a speed of 110 km to 135 km per hour when it makes a landfall, officials said.

Several coastal districts in the Saurashtra region were likely to witness heavy to very heavy rains, heralding pre-monsoon showers, according to MeT officials.

He said people were being made aware about the eventualities through public address systems, SMS and Whatsapp messages. “The state machinery is fully prepared and equipped to deal with the situation,” said Singh.

Chief Minister Vijay Rupani took review meetings with the officials twice on Tuesday.

“The state government has already started deploying NDRF rescue teams and we have asked for additional 10 NDRF teams from the Centre. In all, as many as 35 NDRF teams will be made available by tomorrow afternoon at all the coastal districts, which are likely to be affected,” Additional Chief Secretary (Revenue) Pankaj Kumar told a press conference on Tuesday evening.

He said the state had been put on alert after predictions the cyclonic storm, accompanied by heavy rains. The NDRF teams, along with teams of State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), were being positioned and were well equipped with boats, tree-cutters, telecom equipment, among other things, Pankaj Kumar added.

Besides these, two companies of the Border Security Force (BSF) were being deployed in Kutch, while the state machinery is coordinating with the military for swift rescue and response efforts.

The Gujarat Government, on instructions from Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, has announced a two-day shutdown of all academic institutions including schools, colleges and anganwadis across six coastal districts in Saurashtra.

The MET officials have predicted heavy rainfall in the coastal districts of Gujarat and storm surge in the Arabian Sea could rise to about one to 1.5 metres above the normal tides and inundate low-lying coastal areas of Kutch, Devbhoomi Dwarka, Porbandar, Junagadh, Gir- Somnath, Amreli and Bhavnagar districts as well as Union Territory of Diu.

According to the latest IMD updates, the Cyclone Vayu is likely to move nearly northward and cross Gujarat coast between Porbandar and Mahuva around Veraval and Diu region as a Severe Cyclonic Storm with wind speed of 110-120 km per hour gusting to 135 km per hour.

Principal Secretary (Ports and Transport) Sunaina Tomar, meanwhile, said a disaster management plan had been activated at all the ports in the state and cargo operations have been suspended. Fishermen have already been advised against venturing into the sea for the next few days.

With a view to ensuring that the authorities remained in all preparedness, Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Tuesday convened a high-level meeting to review the preparedness of state and central ministries concerned as well as agencies to deal with the situation.

Shah instructed all senior officials to ensure every possible measure was taken and that the people were safely evacuated as also maintenance of all essential services like electricity, telecommunications, health and drinking water.

The Union Home Minister also said all control rooms should function 24X7.

Union Cabinet Secretary Pradeep Kumar Sinha also convened a meeting to review the preparedness of the State and Central Agencies and directed that people from vulnerable areas be moved to safer places, and essential food, drinking water and medicines be stocked.

According to an official release, the Cabinet Secretary directed the officials that “all possible measures are to be taken to avoid any human casualty and preparations kept ready to restore any damage that may be caused to infrastructure.

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