Gale-force winds, heavy rainfall and high tidal waves swept the coastal belt of Kerala, Karnataka and Goa as Cyclone Tauktae hurtled northwards towards Gujarat on Sunday, leaving six people dead, damaging hundreds of houses, uprooting electricity poles and trees and forcing evacuation in low-lying areas. According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), Tauktae which has taken the form of a “very severe cyclonic storm” is likely to intensify further during the next 24 hours and reach the Gujarat coast on Monday evening.
Strong winds with speed reaching up to 90 km/per were lashing the western coastal region. According to the Cyclone Warning Division of the IMD, by May 18 the wind speed is expected to increase to 150-160 km per hour, gusting up to 175 km per hour. An estimated 1.5 lakh people are being shifted from low-lying coastal areas in Gujarat while 54 teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) have been deployed in the state.
Maharashtra too was bracing for the storm as the Met department predicted heavy to very heavy rains at isolated places in north Konkan, Mumbai, Thane and Palghar and extremely heavy rainfall in Raigad on Monday. The water level in many dams across Kerala showed a rising trend after heavy rains in the catchment areas, prompting authorities to sound an alert.
Four deaths were reported from Karnataka’s Uttara Kannada, Udupi, Chikkamagaluru and Shivamogga districts and two in Goa in cyclone-related incidents. Gusty winds and heavy rains started lashing several parts of Goa since Saturday night disrupting power supply in a large part of the state.
Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said the major impact of the cyclonic winds was felt in Bardez taluka in North Goa district and Mormugao in South Goa. He said there was power disruption for some time at the Goa Medical College and Hospital (GMCH), where COVID-19 patients are undergoing treatment, but it did not affect the functioning. “Hundreds of houses suffered major damage due to the cyclonic winds. Some highways were blocked at several points after trees got uprooted. However, the roads were cleared by the disaster management teams,” Sawant said.
The power supply was disrupted as electric poles were uprooted due to the high-speed winds, state Power Minister Nilesh Cabral told PTI. “Many high tension 33 KV feeders are down due to the falling of trees. Even the 220 KV lines bringing power to Goa from neighbouring Maharashtra have been damaged,” he said.
The electricity department deployed its full force for the restoration work, but it was getting hampered due to the strong winds, he said. In Karnataka, over 70 villages in seven districts including Dakshina Kannada, Kodagu and Hassan have been affected by the cyclone, the Karnataka State Disaster Management Authority officials said.
The highest rainfall of 385 mm was recorded at Nada Station in Kundapura taluk of Udupi district, which was the worst affected, and 15 stations recorded more than 200 mm of rainfall in the district. Officials said nearly a dozen relief camps are functioning in the state. There has been damage to 112 houses, 139 electricity poles and other infrastructure in coastal areas.
Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa has asked in-charge Ministers of coastal districts and Deputy Commissioners there to visit the affected areas and carry out rescue and relief works. The IMD has issued orange alerts –a warning indicating heavy to very heavy rain– on Sunday in three Kerala districts-Ernakulam, Idukki and Malappuram.
Many houses were damaged in coastal areas across the state as seawater seeped in following high waves. According to the state government, at least nine districts have been severely affected by sea incursion. The Thrissur district administration said spillway shutters of the Peringalkuthu dam will be opened if the water level crosses the permitted limit of 419.41 metres. In a statement, the administration has urged the people living on the banks of Chalakudy river to be cautious.
Shutters of Malankara dam in Idukki district will be opened on Sunday, as the water level has increased, the district authorities said. Families living in coastal areas and low-lying areas of the state have been shifted to relief camps.
Indian Navy deployed its diving and quick reaction teams in the coastal village of Chellanam in Ernakulam district, which was heavily hit by tidal waves. The teams, braving harsh weather conditions, undertook rescue and rehabilitation of people who were trapped in houses. High tidal waves have also lashed Kaipamangalam, Chavakkad and Kodungallur in Thrissur, Pallithura in Thiruvananthapuram, Thrikkannapuzha in Alappuzha and Beypore and Koyilandy in Kozhikode districts.
The cyclone, which is the first this year, has added to the woes of the states which are already grappling with the devastating third wave of COVID. IMD Director General M Mohapatra said the cyclone has seen a rapid intensification.
The gradual intensification stages are cyclonic storm, severe cyclonic storm, very severe cyclonic storm, extremely severe storm and super cyclonic storm. The National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC) headed by Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba met on Sunday in the national capital, where the top bureaucrat of the country directed agencies to ensure “uninterrupted” functioning of the COVID hospitals in the states affected by Cyclone Tauktae and secure “zero loss” of lives.
Home Minister Amit Shah reviewed the preparedness for Cyclone Tauktae in Gujarat, Maharashtra and the Union territories of Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Havel and “specifically” stressed that all health facilities, including those for COVID-19 treatment, falling in the affected areas should be secured along with the patients. Shah also advised them to ensure adequate stocks of all essential medicines and supplies in the hospitals, keeping in view a likely disruption in the movement of vehicles, a statement issued by the Union home ministry said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had on Saturday reviewed the preparedness of states, central ministries and agencies concerned to deal with the situation arising out of Cyclone Tauktae. Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said an alert has been sounded in coastal districts of the state and the administration is prepared to ensure uninterrupted electricity and oxygen supply in COVID-19 hospitals.
The IMD said Tauktae would cross Gujarat’s coast between Porbandar and Mahuva in Bhavnagar district by early Tuesday morning and tidal waves are likely to inundate several coastal districts during the landfall. “The very severe cyclonic storm Tauktae over the east-central Arabian Sea moved nearly northwards with a speed of about 11 kmph during the past six hours,” it said.
“It is very likely to intensify during the next 24 hours. It is very likely to move north-northwestwards and reach the Gujarat coast in the evening hours of May 17 and cross the state coast between Porbandar and Mahuva in Bhavnagar district around May 18 early morning,” the IMD said. With the cyclone intensifying, the wind speed along and off Gujarat coasts in Porbandar, Junagadh, Gir Somnath and Amreli districts will reach 150-160 kmph gusting to 175 kmph by Tuesday morning.
It will reach a speed of 120-150 kmph gusting to 165 kmph over Devbhoomi Dwarka, Jamnagar, Bhavnagar districts during the same period, the IMD said. “Gale winds with speed reaching 70-80 kmph gusting to 90 kmph are likely to prevail along and off Valsad, Navsari, Surat, Bharuch, southern parts of Ahmedabad, and Anand districts, as well as Dadra, Nagar Haveli, Daman (Union Territories) from May 17 midnight till Tuesday morning,” it said.
The sea conditions will become “very rough to high” along and off the south Gujarat coast from Monday morning, and “very high to phenomenal” from Monday midnight. A tidal wave of about 3 metres, 1-2.5 metres above the astronomical tide, is likely to inundate several coastal areas of the state during the time of the landfall, it said.
Heavy to very heavy rainfall in isolated places was likely over Saurashtra and Kutch and Diu on Monday, and extremely heavy rainfall at isolated places on Tuesday, according to IMD. The Indian Coast Guard said on Sunday evening that all fishing boats have reached their harbours in Maharashtra and Gujarat.
“With the cyclone likely to affect power supply, hospitals treating COVID-19 patients have been asked to ensure power back-up. Arrangements have also been made to ensure uninterrupted generation of medical oxygen in the eight manufacturing units and buffer stock has also been created,” Chief Minister Vijay Rupani told reporters after attending a cyclone review meeting in Gandhinagar.