Gujarat braces for Cyclone Vayu, 2.15 lakh people evacuated

NDRF members inside an IAF C-17 aircraft as it lands in Jamnagar, Gujarat. The team will carry out relief and rescue missions for those affected by Cyclone Vayu. (PTI Photo)

The Gujarat government undertook a massive evacuation drive on Wednesday across 10 districts as very severe cyclonic storm Vayu inched closer to the Gujarat coast and is expected to make landfall between Dwarka and Veraval by Thursday afternoon. Army columns, NDRF personnel, IAF helicopters and 300 marine commandoes were deployed for rescue and relief operations, while flight operations from five airports were suspended.

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Around three lakh people were being shifted to safer places from Kutch, Morbi, Jamnagar, Junagadh, Devbhoomi-Dwarka, Porbandar, Rajkot, Amreli, Bhavnagar and Gir-Somnath districts, which are expected to bear the brunt of the cyclone, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said after a review meeting with officials on Wednesday. As a precautionary measure, holiday has been declared for schools, colleges and anganwadis on June 12 and June 13 in these 10 districts.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi advised people in his home state to follow real-time information to stay safe. Praying for the safety and wellbeing of all those affected by Cyclone Vayu. The government and local agencies are providing real-time information, which I urge those in affected areas to closely follow, Modi said in a tweet.

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 .

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Flights suspended

The Airports Authority of India suspended flight operations at its airports in Porbandar, Diu, Bhavnagar, Keshod and Kandla for 24 hours from Wednesday midnight.

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

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Forces on alert

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.

Train services to be hit

The Railways has cancelled 70 trains and will short terminate 28 others due to Cyclone Vayu, the Western Railways said Wednesday. Considering the alertness for Cyclone Vayu over Gujarat, the Western Railway has decided to fully cancel operation of 70 mainline trains, while 28 other mainline trains will be short-terminated with partial cancellation as a precautionary measure. In the state, operations will be stopped beyond Rajkot.

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The Western Railway will run relief special trains, two of which are scheduled to be run in Rajkot pision and one in Bhavnagar pision to evacuate passengers from coastal areas.

Apart from this, 80 teams from the Roads and Buildings (R&B) department of the state government have been stationed at different places to clear obstructions on the roads. High-pressure de-watering pumps have also been stationed.

In South Gujarat, the local administration has warned people against visiting beaches like Suwali and Dumas in Surat, Dandi and Ubhrat in Navsari and Tithal in Valsad district.