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Tuesday, May 18, 2021, 12:37
At least 19 killed, 81 missing as cyclone lashes India's west coast
By Agencies
Tuesday, May 18, 2021, 12:37 By Agencies

Waves lash over onto a shoreline in Mumbai on May 17, 2021, as Cyclone Tauktae, packing ferocious winds and threatening a destructive storm, surge bore down on India, disrupting the country's response to its devastating COVID-19 outbreak. (SUJIT JAISWAL / AFP)

AHMEDABAD - A cyclone on India's west coast has killed at least 19 people and left 81 missing as heavy rains continued to lash some regions even as weather officials said on Tuesday that the storm's intensity had weakened.

The cyclone Tauktae, which made landfall in the western state of Gujarat late on Monday, has hit power supply in 2,400 villages in the state as a thousand electricity pylons were damaged, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said in a media address.

Nearly 160 roads have been destroyed, 40,000 trees uprooted and several houses damaged, Rupani added.

"Heavy rains and wind speeds of up to 100-110 kmph are continuing at many places, and the whole administration remains on standby to deal with any situation," he added. 

ALSO READ: Cargo ship runs aground as storm strikes near Philippines

A massive operation is underway to rescue 81 people who went missing as a barge hired by state-run explorer Oil & Natural Gas Corp sank amid high seas off Mumbai.

 “Long-range maritime surveillance aircraft were assisting the rescue effort but bad weather was hampering operations,” Indian Navy Spokesman Vivek Madhwal said, adding that about 180 people, who were on the barge, were rescued in a night-long operation.

A picture taken on May 17, 2021 shows a truck loaded with oxygen cylinders stuck as trees fell due to impact of approaching Cyclone Tauktae, near Mahuva, in Gujarat state, western India. Powerful Cyclone Tauktae made landfall in western India on May 17, as heavy rains and strong winds battered the region and officials evacuated thousands of people including COVID-19 patients from hospitals near the coast. (SAM PANTHAKY / AFP)

Another warship of the Indian Navy sailed out on Tuesday to rescue hundreds of people from two other ONGC-operated barges, which were adrift in high seas, Madhwal said.

Indian Navy ships and vessels of Indian Coast Guard and ONGC have joined the rescue operations, the company said in a statement.

More than 200,000 people had been evacuated from their homes in Gujarat before Tauktae made landfall, packing gusts of up to 210 kph.

This cyclone is a terrible double blow for millions of people in India whose families have been struck down by record COVID-19 infections and deaths. Many families are barely staying afloat.

Udaya Regmi, South Asia head of delegation, International Federation of Red Cross

The cyclone which was categorized as "extremely severe" weakened to a "very severe" storm after making landfall, the Indian Meteorological department said. The intensity is set to reduce further in the next few hours, it added.

Tauktae, the most powerful cyclone in more than two decades, piles pressure on India which is already grappling with a staggering spike in coronavirus cases and deaths as well as a shortage of beds and oxygen in hospitals.

ALSO READ: India's Gujarat state braces for most severe cyclone in over 2 decades

"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.

Rupani assured that oxygen manufacturing had not been hit and hospitals with COVID-19 patients remained unaffected.

A survey has also been initiated in Gujarat to ascertain the agricultural losses due to the cyclone.

"The standing crops would have suffered definite losses, especially in areas of Saurashtra where the cyclone hit the hardest," said Manish Bhardwaj, principal secretary at the state agriculture department.

Before reaching Gujarat, the cyclone left a trail of destruction as it brushed past the coastal states of Kerala, Karnataka, Goa, as well as Maharashtra, home to India's financial hub of Mumbai, authorities said.

No damage to ports and refineries

In Gujarat, no damages have been reported at the refineries and sea ports that were expected to be in the storm's path.

Trucks are stranded on a flooded highway near Diu on May 18, 2021, after Cyclone Tauktae blasted ashore in western India late May 17 with fierce winds and drenching rains that turned streets into rivers. (PUNIT PARANJPE / AFP)

At the Jamnagar refinery, the world's biggest oil refinery complex that is owned by Reliance Industries, no damage was reported, a company spokesman told Reuters.

Operations at the Mundra port, India's largest private port, have resumed, a port official said.

The Kandla Port, the largest government-run port in the country, has however not resumed operations as wind speeds of more than 70 kmph made it unsafe to do so, port officials said.

"We may resume operations in the afternoon today depending on the weather conditions," SK Mehta, chairman of Kandla Port, said, adding there was no damage in the port.

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