At least 16 people have died as an ‘extremely severe’ storm reached land in western India.
Deaths were recorded in Goa, Maharashtra and Karnataka as cyclone Tauktae caused flooding.
Last night it made landfall in Gujarat state — bringing up to 130mph gusts, causing power outages and damaging buildings.
More than 200,000 people have been evacuated from their homes and airports were closed. Covid vaccines have been halted for two days.
The storm, the worst to hit Gujarat in two decades, has put more pressure on authorities grappling with a virus surge.
‘Our priority is to clear the roads, so there is no impact on oxygen movement’ due to the cyclone, said Gaurang Makwana, the top official of Bhavnagar district in Gujarat.
Udaya Regmi, of aid group IFRC, called it ‘a terrible double blow for millions of people in India whose families have been struck down by record Covid deaths’.
The cyclone which was categorised as ‘extremely severe’ weakened to a ‘very severe’ storm after making landfall, the Indian Meteorological department said.
The Indian navy said it had rescued 146 people from one of two barges that were adrift near the Mumbai coastline, adding that planes and helicopters had been deployed to scour the seas.
In Gujarat, no damages have been reported at the refineries and sea ports that were expected to be in the storm’s path.
Tropical cyclones are less common in the Arabian Sea than on India’s east coast and usually form later in the year.
But experts say changing climate patterns have caused them to become more intense, rather than more frequent.
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