| 21 April 2024, Sunday |

India, Pakistan evacuate over 150,000 people as cyclone approaches

More than 150,000 people have been evacuated by Indian and Pakistani authorities from vulnerable coastal districts in the path of Cyclone Biparjoy, which is expected to sweep in from the Arabian Sea and reach landfall by Thursday night.

According to weather officials, Biparjoy, which is Bengali for “calamity” or “disaster,” was centered 230 km (143 miles) off Karachi in southern Pakistan and 140 km (87 miles) off Jakhau port in the western Indian state of Gujarat.

“We are expecting the cyclone to make landfall during the evening, around 8 or 8:30 p.m.,” said Manorama Mohanty, the Gujarat director of the India Meteorological Department (IMD), which warned the process could last until midnight.

It added that the cyclone could cause tidal waves in the Arabian Sea as high as 2 m to 3 m (7 to 10 ft) that could inundate low-lying coastal areas in both countries.

Classified as a category one storm, the least severe on a scale of one to five, Biparjoy appeared to have lost some of its intensity.

It was expected to have a maximum sustained wind speed of 115 to 125 kph (71 to 78 mph) gusting up to 140 kph (87 mph), down from Wednesday’s estimate of 150 kph (93 mph).

Close to 95,000 people have been evacuated from eight coastal districts in Gujarat likely to be affected by the cyclone and moved to shelters, the state government said.

Authorities in Pakistan said about 62,000 people had been evacuated from high-risk areas by Wednesday evening.

Makeshift relief quarters were set up in school auditoriums and other government buildings to shelter the displaced in both countries.

As the storm neared land, the windspeed rose around Jakhau, said Amit Arora, a revenue official in the region of Kutch, where the cyclone is likely to hit land, and more than 50,000 people have been evacuated.

In the coastal town of Mandvi, a Reuters witness said strong winds had uprooted trees and caused some waterlogging. Other districts in the state also reported fallen trees and moderate rain.

Ships and boats have been moved from some areas of Pakistan’s coast with hospitals put on high alert for the cyclone.

Karachi, an economic hub of 20 million, faced no immediate threat, but emergency measures were being taken to protect against the expected winds and rain, said Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s climate change minister.

Temporary thatched homes in coastal Gujarat could be flattened while standing crops, plantations and roads are threatened with major damage, the IMD said in a statement that cautioned against disruptions to the railway network.

Indian authorities suspended fishing until Friday, shut schools and closed beaches. Many offshore oil installations and major ports on the Gujarat coast have suspended operations.

  • Reuters