Gujarat braces for Cyclone Vayu, 2.15 lakh people evacuated

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Published: June 13, 2019 12:33:40 AM

Army columns and NDRF personnel, IAF helicopters and 300 marine commandoes have been deployed to conduct rescue and relief operations

Fishermen pull boats away from the sea shore Veralval ahead of the severe cyclonic storm ‘Vayu’ (Image: Javed Raja)Fishermen pull boats away from the sea shore Veralval ahead of the severe cyclonic storm ‘Vayu’ (Image: Javed Raja)

In a massive evacuation drive conducted across 10 districts, which are expected to bear the maximum brunt of Cyclone Vayu, the Gujarat government shifted over 2.15 lakh people to safer places before the cyclone makes a landfall between Dwarka and Veraval on Thursday afternoon.

Army columns and NDRF personnel, IAF helicopters and 300 marine commandoes have been deployed to conduct rescue and relief operations in the state, while flight operations from five airports in the state will be suspended.

Pankaj Kumar, additional chief secretary, revenue department, said as per the latest forecast, the cyclone is “likely to cross Gujarat coast between Dwarka and Veraval as a very severe cyclonic storm with wind speeds 155-165 kmph around afternoon of June 13, 2019”. The cyclone, is moving northwestwards at a speed of 14 kilometres per hour. “As the severity of the cyclone is increasing, the wind speeds have increased from 120 kmph to 155-165 kmph,” he added.

Earlier, the India Meterological Department (IMD) had predicted Vayu to be a “severe cyclonic storm” with wind speeds between 110-120 kmph. It was foreceast to hit the Gujarat coast on Thursday morning around Veraval, between Porbandar and Mahuva (Bhavnagar district). The forecast issued by IMD on Tuesday said the cyclone is likely to affect Gir Somnath, Amreli, Bhavnagar, Junagadh and Porbandar districts severely and Devbhoomi Dwarka, Jamnagar and Kutch partially.

The Airports Authority of India has decided to suspend flight operations at its airports in Porbandar, Diu, Bhavnagar, Keshod and Kandla from Wednesday midnight till Thursday midnight. The Regional Executive Director (Western Region), AAI and all Airport Directors in Gujarat have been advised to be ready to handle any exigency.

Equipment and heavy machinery have been moved to safety at respective airports and the Airport Directors of AAI’s Bhuj and Jamnagar Airports have been asked to write to the Indian Air Force (IAF) to suspend operations of civil flights from these two airports. A decision in respect of suspending operations at AAI’s Surat Airport will be taken after analysing the weather, a statement from the AAI said.

The Army has deployed 11 columns in the coastal areas of the state, including all district headquarters of Jamnagar, Gir Somnath, Devbhoomi Dwarka, Junagadh, Porbandar, Morbi, Bhavnagar, Amerli and Rajkot. The Indian Air Force (IAF) has also deployed nine helicopters at nodal points in the state for relief and rescue operations. It has also stationed a “highly mobile radar” in Gandhinagar. “The IAF helicopters have been stationed at air bases at Jamnagar, Vadodara and Ahmedabad,” Kumar said.

Apart from this, 47 NDRF (National Disaster Response Force) teams will be part of rescue and relief operations. Over 152 NDRF personnel and eight tonnes of equipment were flown by C-17 Globemaster aircraft of the IAF from Arakkonam and another aircraft carried 154 NDRF personnel and six tonne of equipment from Patna. These aircraft landed at the Jamnagar air base.

“Apart from the NDRF, nine teams of SDRF (State Disaster Response Force), two companies of Border Security Force (deployed in Kutch), 14 companies of SRP (State Reserve Police) and 300 marine commandos have been deployed,” Kumar said.

The IAS officer also said over 10,400 tourists were shifted from the state. The tourists from Porbandar (1300), Somnath (5800), Dwarka (1200) and Diu (1900) were ferried by 271 trips of the GSRTC. “Others who are in this region are being requested to stay indoors on June 13 and 14,” he said adding that evacuation work was still on.

The Railways has stopped train operations beyond Rajkot. Special trains are being operated from Okha and other areas to evacuate those stranded, he said. The Western Railways cancelled over 15 trains, including those terminating or originating from Veraval, Somnath, Hapa, Okha, Junagadh and Hapa. Over 16 more trains will be short terminated at Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Sabarmati and Surendranagar.

The Army has also kept 24 additional columns on standby. Each column has the strength of about 70 personnel from Infantry/Artillery, Signal, Engineers and Army Medical Corps. The South Western Air Command of the Indian Air Force (IAF) has placed a “highly mobile radar” at Gandhinagar. This radar can be deployed at remote locations for channelising helicopter operations.

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