Cyclone Tauktae intensifies, nears Gujarat -

As very severe cyclonic storm Tauktae intensified and progressed towards Gujarat, the state government started evacuating people from vulnerable villages along the Saurashtra coast from Sunday. Till afternoon, around 15,000 of the 1.5 lakh residents to be shifted from districts likely to be most affected, were relocated following Covid protocols.

Around 15,000 people were relocated following Covid protocols till afternoon of the 1.5 lakh residents to be shifted from districts likely to be most affected.

Measures will be taken to ensure that 1,300 Covid hospitals have power backup as the cyclone is likely to bring heavy rain and squally winds, while 45 teams of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and six teams of State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) and 85 ICU-on-wheel ambulances have been put on standby.

Earlier on Sunday, briefing the media in Bhavnagar about state’s preparedness to deal with the cyclone that is likely to make landfall on the intervening night on Monday and Tuesday, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said, “Through a video conference, Union Home Minister (Amit Shah) has given guidance to the state government about the likely scenario and accordingly, Gujarat has prepared an action plan. Our target is to ensure zero casualty.”

“Till today afternoon, more than 15,000 residents from South Ahmedabad, Amreli, Anand, Kutch, Bharuch, Bhavnagar,

Devbhoomi Dwarka, Gir Somnath, Jamnagar, Junagadh, Rajkot, Morbi, Navsari, Porbandar, Surat, Valsad and Botad, a total of 17 districts, have been shifted to safe locations… Also, 20 NDRF teams have been deployed in Saurashtra and Kutch, four teams in South Gujarat and additional 14 teams will reach Gujarat soon. Six SDRF teams have been deployed, while five NDRF teams have been put on reserve. Thus, a total of 45 NDRF teams have been deployed for rescue operations,” additional chief secretary of revenue department Pankaj Kumar stated in an official release.

Control rooms have been set up in all these districts, while Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar witnessed a windstorm and rainfall Sunday night.

Tauktae, located 620 km south-southeast of Veraval (Gujarat) as on Sunday evening, is likely to intensify and move north-northwestwards and reach Gujarat coast on May 17 evening and cross Gujarat between Porbandar and Mahuva in Bhavnagar district early morning on May 18.

Porbandar, Amreli, Junagadh, Gir Somnath, Botad and Bhavnagar are likely to bear the brunt with the weather department predicting total destruction of thatched houses, extensive damage to kutcha houses and some damage to pucca houses.

“High tidal waves above astronomical tide are likely to inundate coastal areas — about 3 metres (m) over Junagadh, 1-2.5 m over Diu, Gir Somnath, Amreli, Bharuch, Bhavnagar, Ahmedabad, Anand, Surat and about 0.5 -1m over Devbhoomi Dwarka, Jamnagar, Porbandar, Kutch the remaining coastal districts of Gujarat during the time of landfall-between May 17 and 18,” IMD’s cyclone bulletin issued Sunday stated.

Also, some damage is expected in Devbhoomi Dwarka, Kutch, Jamnagar, Rajkot and Morbi, Valsad, Surat, Vadodara, Bharuch, Navsari, Anand and Ahmedabad.

As the cyclone progressed towards Gujarat coast, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has issued an alert of heavy rain very likely at isolated places in Valsad, Daman and Dadra & Nagar Haveli from Monday. Heavy rainfall is expected across the state till May 20.

The CM said that all fishermen, save those on one fishing trawler, have been called back to the shore, while saltpan workers along the coast have been directed to move inland.

“Evacuation from all coastal villages will start tomorrow morning and the government has given strict instructions to complete it by afternoon. The Central government has allotted 44 teams of NDRF, of which 26 have already arrived… Additionally, the government has kept 85 ICU-on-wheel class ambulances in Jamnagar, Bhavnagar, Junagadh Rajkot and Kutch on standby in case of emergency,” he added.

The IMD has also warned of squally wind of speed gradually reaching 150-160 kmph gusting to 175 kmph over northeast Arabian Sea, along and off Gujarat coast — Porbandar, Junagadh, Gir Somnath, Amreli, Bhavnagar — and 100 -120 kmph gusting to 135 kmph over Bharuch, Anand, South Ahmedabad, Botad, Surendranagar, 90 -100 kmph gusting to 120 kmph over Devbhoomi Dwarka, Jamnagar, Rajkot, Morbi districts of Gujarat early on May 18.

“All 1,300 Covid hospitals in the state will have power backup… and will do wind-proofing to ensure that gusty winds don’t damage their windows… Unlike Maharashtra, no patient will have to be shifted due to the cyclone. Maharashtra has set up temporary Covid hospitals in domes that are vulnerable to be blown away by strong winds. But Gujarat has none,” the CM said, adding that the one set by DRDO is also inside the convention hall of Gujarat University in Ahmedabad. Arrangements have also been made to ensure that operations at seven to eight oxygen plants in Saurashtra are not affected, he said.

“Gale wind of speed reaching 70-90 kmph gusting to 100 kmph is likely to prevail along and off Dadra, Nagar Haveli, Daman, Valsad, Navsari, Surat, Kheda districts from May 17 midnight till May 18 morning,” IMD regional director Manorama Mohanty said.

Light thunderstorm with lightning and surface wind of 30- 40 kmph accompanied with moderate rain is very likely at isolated places in Sabarkantha, Ahmedabad, Anand, Vadodara, Bharuch, Surat, Dang, Navsari, Valsad, Rajkot, Amreli, Bhavnagar, Gir Somnath, Kutch and Diu from Monday.

Rupani appealed to the civil society organisations to contact district collectors in Saurashtra and led a helping hand in evacuation of people. He said that team of road and building department and state forest department will keep roads clear of any trees that might get uprooted.

Energy Minister Saurabh Patel told media in Rajkot that of the 391 Covid hospitals in 12 districts of Saurashtra-Kutch regions, diesel power generator sets have been installed in 329 hospitals.

“Power generators will be installed at the remaining 72 hospitals by evening. Special teams have been formed to ensure that power supply to oxygen plants is not disrupted. We have identified 10 sub-stations of 132 to 200 kv (kilovolt) and 150 sub-stations of 66 kv in these 12 districts as vulnerable to flooding where de-watering pumps have been installed to ensure continuous power supply,” said Patel, adding Paschim Gujarat Vij Company Limited, the state-government utility which distributes power in Saurashtra-Kutch, has formed 291 teams to meet any eventuality.

In Vadodara, Officer on Special Duty Vinod Rao held a video conference with District Collector, Municipal Commissioner, Superintendent of Police and senior officers of the VMC and doctors of SSG and Gotri Hospitals,with emphasis on ensuring availability of oxygen and electricity.

Rao said, “We have discussed uninterrupted electric backup, fire safety, removal of obstruction on roads, and other safety precautions, especially about uninterrupted oxygen supply from Jamnagar, Bhavnagar, and Bharuch for next two-three days. This will be crucial for Vadodara since we are dependent on oxygen supply from districts that are at high risk of cyclone.”

Relocating Covid facilities

In Ahmedabad, collector Sandip Sagale instructed Covid care centres functional in kutcha structures to be immediately relocated to nearest hospitals. Arrangements have been made to provide food packets to those evacuated with the help of non-government organisations. The collector has also issued instructions to conduct Rapid Antigen Test on all those relocated, the statement from collectorate stated.

“Buffer stock of oxygen for three days have been collected from all oxygen suppliers to Ahmedabad district and kept in stock. Also, all oxygen manufacturing plants have been instructed to make arrangements for electricity back-up,” it stated.

All construction work has been stopped to avoid traffic disruption to ambulances, oxygen vehicles and other emergency vehicles. An inventory of resources with the GIDC and major industries in the district have been prepared under a nodal officer in case of any emergency. Hoardings and banners expected to cause damage have been removed fom nagar palika and gram panchayat areas.

Vaccination suspended

The CM said the state government has decided to suspend Covid-19 vaccination drive on Monday and Tuesday as the health staff of the state will be put on high alert in view of the cyclone.

Relief trains

General Manager of Western Railway, Alok Kansal, on Sunday attended a meeting with principal head of departments and divisional railway managers concerned to review the preparations for the expected cyclone.

“Cyclone Tautkae is likely to hit Saurashtra and Kutch regions of Gujarat, covering mostly Bhavnagar Division, western part of Rajkot Division and a very small region near Gandhidham of Ahmedabad Division… Detailed instructions have been issued to all the departments to start rescue operations immediately if needed. The engineering departments of the divisions concerned have been put on alert to tackle the situation with arrangements for tree cutting equipment, DG sets, diesel driven pumps, earth moving equipment, JCBs, utility vehicles, adequate fuel resources, etc… Relief trains have been equipped with adequate medicines and sufficient rescue and re-railing equipment…,” said Sumit Thakur, chief public relations officer, Western Railway.

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