Cyclone Vayu changes course, moves away from Gujarat

Authorities remain on alert; 3.5 lakh people from 10 coastal areas have been shifted

Vayu Veraval AP A waves crashes as people stand on boats on the Arabian Sea coast in Veraval due to the effects of Cyclone Vayu | AP

The Indian Meteorological Department on Thursday morning announced Cyclone Vayu had changed course and moved away from the Gujarat coast and was likely to skirt the Saurashtra coast. It had previously been predicted that Vayu, which intensified into a very severe cyclonic storm, could make landfall between Dwarka and Veraval on Thursday afternoon.

However, the authorities remain on alert for possible damage from Cyclone Vayu; nearly 3.5 lakh people from 10 coastal areas of Gujarat have been moved to safer places.

The IMD announced around 7.30am on Thursday that Cyclone Vayu is “likely to move north-north-westwards for some time and then north-westwards skirting Saurashtra coast with wind speed 135-145kmph from afternoon” on Thursday.

People have been asked to remain indoors. Saurashtra and South Gujarat regions have experienced rainfall with high-speed winds.

The evacuations have been made from over 500 villages in the coastal areas, thanks to round-the-clock operations carried out in the last two days by NDRF teams, Army and other agencies.

All the ports in Saurashtra region have hoisted Signal Number 9 that means the cyclone is now severe or very severe.

Even as the state might be able to control the number of casualties as a result of preparations made in advance, it might not be able to do anything against the large-scale damage that the IMD has warned Cyclone Vayu would bring. The IMD has warned that the wind speed would be between 140kmph to 165kmph and the tides would be much higher than the astronomical tides.

All these could affect rickety homes, standing crops and fruit orchards and cause major damage to roads and put the power system out of order.

There have been reports of deaths of five persons in South Gujarat and Saurashtra-Kutch regions due to trees being uprooted and electrocution as a result of high-speed winds caused by Cyclone Vayu.

Schools and colleges are shut in 10 coastal areas since Wednesday, and the Gujarat State Transport Service suspended its routine services to the areas that are likely to be affected.

The Western Railway has cancelled 35 mainline trains and more than 25 mainline trains have been short-terminated with partial cancellation as a precautionary measure in the areas likely to be affected by Cyclone Vayu. Three special trains have been pressed into service for evacuation. One of these services is operating in Okha in Saurashtra region to Rajkot and two trains to Ahmedabad.

Flight operations in five airports, including Porbandar and Jamnagar, remain suspended.

Late on Wednesday night, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani held a videoconference with the collectors of the areas that are to be affected to review preparedness and the progress of evacuations.

Cyclone Vayu is believed to be the deadliest cyclonic storm that would hit Gujarat since 1998. In 1998, over 1,000 people were killed when a cyclone hit Kandla Port.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who hails from Gujarat, tweeted that he prays for the safety of the people. He said in the tweet that ministry of home affairs is in continuous touch with the state government, Union territory and Central agencies. Shah also said that NDRF has prepositioned 52 teams equipped with boats, tree cutters, telecom equipment and other materials.