Cyclone Tauktae, an “extremely severe cyclonic storm” according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), is around 160 km south-southwest of Mumbai, where the airport has been shut between 11 AM and 2 PM, and is “very likely” to reach the Gujarat coast between 8 PM and 11 PM tonight. The city’s Bandra-Worli sea link has been closed. Five temporary shelters have been set up in each of the city’s 24 wards. Three NDRF teams are on alert.
Tauktae has turned into an “extremely severe cyclonic storm”, the IMD said. The rapid intensification happened in the early hours of Monday, said the IMD which had earlier not predicted that Tauktae will intensify into an extremely severe cyclonic storm. It now has a wind speed of 180-190 km/h with winds gusting to 210 km/h.
Maharashtra too was bracing for the storm as the Met department predicted heavy to very heavy rains at isolated places in north Konkan, Mumbai, Thane and Palghar and extremely heavy rainfall in Raigad on 17 May. The water level in many dams across Kerala was rising after heavy rains in the catchment areas, prompting authorities to sound an alert.
The IMD has, however, forecast that its intensity will reduce when it hits the Gujarat coast. “The very severe cyclonic storm ‘Tauktae’ over east central Arabian Sea moved north-north-westwards with a speed of about 20 kmph during past six hours, intensified into an extremely severe cyclonic storm,” the Cyclone Warning Division of the IMD said.
Gujarat Additional Chief Secretary Pankaj Kumar said 25,000 people have already been moved to safer places. In Mumbai, five temporary shelters each have been put up in 24 civic wards of the metropolis so that citizens can be shifted there, if necessary.
The IMD has issued an orange alert for Mumbai, warning of very heavy rains at isolated places with strong winds on Monday as Tauktae is likely to pass close to the Mumbai coast.
Three teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) stationed in the western suburbs of Mumbai have been put on alert. Teams of the Indian Navy are also kept on standby, officials said.
Meanwhile, in Jalgaon in north Maharashtra, two people died and another was injured after a tree fell on a hut, an official said. It wasn’t clear if the incident was directly related to the severity of the cyclonic storm.
Gale-force winds, heavy rainfall and high tidal waves swept the coastal belt of Kerala, Karnataka and Goa as Cyclone Tauktae hurtled northwards towards Gujarat on Sunday, leaving six people dead, damaging hundreds of houses, uprooting electricity poles and trees and forcing evacuation in low-lying areas.
One more person was killed in Surat in Gujarat after a tree fell on him. Several trees have been uprooted after strong winds and heavy rain were seen in coastal areas of the state.