India World

Cyclone Tauktae: India’s western coast braces for a powerful storm, thousands evacuated

At least four people died in India as a powerful cyclone approaches the coronavirus-hit nation, with tens of thousands been made to evacuate from their homes.

Cyclone Tauktae is moving northwards in parallel with the country’s western coast, bringing heavy rains, thunderstorms and strong winds to several states.

The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) issued an “orange alert” for the western state of Maharashtra which is likely to face heavy rainfall.

It is expected to make land in coastal Gujarat as early as Monday night, bringing wind speeds of approximately 150-160 km per hour, the weather bureau added.

Four people died on Saturday as torrential rain and winds battered Karnataka state, the disaster management authority said on Sunday.

Several towns and villages were flooded and properties damaged, officials added.

Two others were reported dead and 23 fishermen were feared missing in the neighbouring state of Kerala, local media said.

Up to 75,000 people are set to be evacuated from coastal districts in Gujarat, where a COVID-19 vaccination rollout will be suspended on Monday and Tuesday.

COVID hospitals in the affected districts were asked to back power supply.

Oxygen and power supply to hospitals in the state would be uninterrupted, Maharashtra said, while hundreds of COVID patients will be moved from field hospitals.

India is already battling a deadly wave of infections that has pushed its healthcare system to breaking point, leading to severe shortages of hospital beds, oxygen and medicines.

India recorded over 311,170 new infections on Sunday, taking the total tally to nearly 24.7 million.

The death toll rose to more than 270,000 after 4,077 deaths were officially recorded over the past 24 hours. Experts say the actual toll could be significantly higher.