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Misery upon misery as India braces for powerful cyclone amid COVID-19 surge

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Misery upon misery as India braces for powerful cyclone amid COVID-19 surge
May 17, 2021 1:57 AM PT
A powerful cyclone roaring in the Arabian Sea moved toward India’s western coast Monday as authorities tried to evacuate hundreds of thousands of people and suspended COVID-19 vaccinations in one state.

Cyclone Tauktae, which has already killed six people in parts of southern India, was expected to make landfall Monday evening in Gujarat state with winds of up to 109 miles per hour, the India Meteorological Department said.

Forecasters warned of possible extensive damage from high winds, heavy rainfall and flooding in low-lying areas.

The massive storm comes as India is battling with a devastating COVID-19 surge — and both the storm and the coronavirus could exacerbate each other’s effects. The storm has already led to the suspension of some vaccination efforts, and there is greater risk of coronavirus transmission in crowded evacuation shelters.

Lockdown measures, meanwhile, could slow relief work after the storm, and damage from the storm could destroy roads and cut vital supply lines for vaccines and medical supplies needed for COVID-19 patients.

In Gujarat, vaccinations were suspended for two days while authorities worked to evacuate hundreds of thousands of people to temporary relief shelters. The state’s chief minister, Vijay Rupani, asked officials to ensure that oxygen supplies for hospitals are not disrupted.

In Maharashtra state, operations at Mumbai’s international airport were suspended for five hours.

Fishing boats off the coast in both states returned to their harbors, and thousands of rescue and relief teams, along with ships and aircraft, were deployed for recovery operations.

India’s western coast is no stranger to devastating cyclones, but changing climate patterns have caused them to become more intense, rather than more frequent.

In May 2020, nearly 100 people died after Cyclone Amphan, the most powerful storm to hit eastern India in more than a decade, ravaged the region and left millions without power.
 

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