Cyclone Vayu changes course, skirts Gujarat's Saurashtra coast; state to remain on high alert for next 24 hours

Cyclone Vayu, which was expected to make a landfall in Gujarat, changed its course on Thursday and began moving away from the state coast. Heavy winds and rainfall, however, posed a threat to the region, with officials asserting they will continue to monitor the situation.

At 2.30 pm, Vayu was 130 kilometres southwest of Veraval and 120 kilometres south of Porbandar, according to India Meterological Department (IMD). The storm had then started skirting Saurashtra coast with a wind speed of 135-145 kilometres per hour.

In a press release issued at 7.30 pm, the IMD said, "It (Vayu) is very likely to move north-northwestwards for some time and then northwestwards, skirting the Saurashtra coast, affecting Gir Somnath, Diu, Junagarh, Porbandar and Devbhoomi Dwarka with wind speed 90-100 kilometres per hour gusting to 110 kilometres per hour during the next 12 hours."

Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said that the administration will continue to be on high alert for 24 hours. "Schools of 10 districts will stay closed tomorrow (Friday)," he said.

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a telephonic conversation with Rupani immediately after reaching Bishkek for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit and assured all assistance and support from the central government in view of the cyclone.

State revenue department's Additional Chief Secretary Pankaj Kumar said that though the IMD has informed that the cyclone has changed its course, "it may still cause heavy winds and rains, and so we are still on standby mode".

 Cyclone Vayu changes course, skirts Gujarats Saurashtra coast; state to remain on high alert for next 24 hours

Cyclone Vayu, which was expected to cross Gujarat coast between Dwarka and Veraval, changed its course on Thursday and began moving away from the state coast. Reuters

Besides taking help of the armed forces and the Indian Coast Guard, the Gujarat government deployed 33 teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and nine teams of the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) in 10 coastal districts of the state, Kumar said.

In addition, 11 columns of the army, two companies of the Border Security Force, 14 companies of the State Reserve Police and 300 commandos were deployed at different locations in the Kutch and Saurashtra areas.

Indian Coast Guard DIG Iqbal Singh Chauhan told ANI, "We are monitoring the movement of the cyclone. It was to hit in the morning but luckily for Gujarat, it has veered off.... We are ready for any assistance to the state administration now and even after the storm passes away."

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh also reviewed the situation and took note of preparations made by the Indian Coast Guard and the navy. "Indian Navy ships in Chennai, Gomati and Deepak at Mumbai have been embarked with high availability disaster recovery/relief material, and are ready to be deployed at short notice. In addition, 5,000 litres of drinking water is also being embarked on board the Indian Navy ships. Seven Indian Navy aircraft and three helicopters are standby for deployment," Singh said on Thursday. Moreover, two diving and rescue teams and three medical teams were on standby to render necessary assistance.

"Preparations have been made to set up a community kitchen at Dwarka and Porbandar. Aircraft and helicopters will be deployed for the damage assessment and search and rescue operations as required," he added.

The authorities had on Wednesday moved three lakh people from low-lying areas near the coast to safer places in a massive evacuation exercise.

Earlier on Thursday, the NDRF rescued a pregnant woman requiring pre-term delivery from Shiyalbet village, and brought her to a hospital in Jafarabad. ANI reported that the woman successfully delivered a baby boy. The Gujarat Chief Minister's Office said on Twitter that in a separate incident during evacuation, a delivery was conducted by ‘108’ team in the ambulance itself in Maliya in Junagadh.

As very strong winds hit the region and the sea turned rough due to Cyclone Vayu, fishermen in Veraval coastal area of the district claimed that at least 40 to 45 boats were damaged due to the impact of the cyclone.

In Porbandar, a portion of the decades-old Bhuteshwar Mahadev temple collapsed due to heavy winds and sea waves.

Flight services were suspended at airports in Porbandar, Diu, Bhavnagar, Keshod and Kandla, while 86 trains under the Western Railway were cancelled and 37 others were short-terminated.

Talaja taluka in Bhavnagar received the highest amount of rainfall (41 millimetres) in Gujarat from 6 am to 4 pm on Thursday, while Jafrabad and Khambha in Amreli district recorded the second highest rainfall of 35 millimetres. Both IMD and private weather forecaster Skymet Weather have predicted widespread heavy rainfall to continue till Friday in the coastal areas of Gujarat.

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Jun 13, 2019 21:39:05 IST