One of the deadliest storms struck India on the same day the country reported its highest-ever death toll from the pandemic.
Category four cyclone Tauktae slammed into India’s West Coast, delivering record-breaking wind gusts of up to 130 mph before weakening over land later the same day on May 18.
Hundreds of thousands of affected residents were forced to evacuate to higher ground as crews wearing orange hazmat suits patrolled coastal areas with megaphones.
According to the National Public Radio website, over 200,000 people fled their homes in the fifth-largest western state of Gujarat. Hundreds of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Virus patients have also been transferred from Mumbai’s coastal wards to hospitals further inland.
Cyclones are more frequent over the Bay of Bengal on India’s East Coast. However, the latest disaster-affected several states along the West Coast over the Arabian Sea include Kerala, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra, and Gujarat. The broadcaster called the cyclone the most powerful storm to strike the area in decades.
Flying objects, building collapses, and floods killed at least 16 people. Hundreds of barge personnel have been reported missing off the coast of Mumbai, prompting a search and rescue operation.
The Indian Naval fleet saved at least 180 personnel in very challenging conditions at the time of publication.
“Since the commencement of the search and rescue from post meridiem 17 May 2021, 180 survivors have been recovered so far,” a navy representative said in a statement.
“Indian Naval Ships (INS) Beas, Betwa and Teg joined INS Kochi and Kolkata for undertaking search and rescue operations for barge P-305–which sank 35 nautical miles from Mumbai (in the Mumbai Offshore Development Area,” the representative added. “Search and rescue has also been augmented with P8I and naval helicopters, who continue to undertake aerial search in the area.”
Meanwhile, an Indian Navy Seaking helicopter was launched to rescue the crew of GAL Constructor, which ran aground north of Mumbai.
“The helicopter rescued 35 crew members of GAL Constructor,” a navy representative said. “The sea continues to be extremely rough with sea state four to five and winds [reaching] 25 to 30 knots (approximately 22–34 mph), posing a challenge to the ships and aircraft involved in search and rescue operations.”
Coastal slums have been polluted, and power lines have been cut. Government-imposed CCP Virus lockdowns also have complicated relief efforts.
“You have to evacuate [people] in a certain way because you do not want COVID [CCP Virus] infections on your hands post-cyclone,” National Disaster Response Force Director General Satya Pradhan said in a video shared on Twitter.
Another pressing issue is providing a steady supply of electricity to hospitals and manufacturing plants that produce and bottle medical oxygen.
“[Tauktae] weakened into a deep depression at 1500 UTC of 18 May over Gujarat region, and lay centered at 1500 UTC over Gujarat region … about 60km (37 miles) north-northeast of Ahmedabad,” the India Meteorological Department said in a statement.
India’s Ministry of Health reported 4,329 CCP virus-related deaths on May 18, representing the country’s deadliest single-day toll since the pandemic began. There were also 263,533 new coronavirus cases confirmed–down from more than 400,000 a day earlier this month.
There are still widespread concerns about the actual number of infections and deaths being higher than reported, especially in rural areas that allegedly have low research rates.