21 dead, 96 reported missing as cyclone Tauktae crushes India

21 dead and 96 people reported missing on Tuesday after a freak cyclone Tauktae crashed into western India, compounding the agony for millions of Indians enduring a ravaging coronavirus surge.

A considerable number of Indians were left without power after Cyclone Tauktae, one of the increasingly severe storms in the Arabian Sea charged on climate change, struck the Gujarat coast on Monday evening.

The cyclone packed gusts of up to 185 kilometers (115 miles) per hour, uprooting vegetation and knocking down power lines and mobile phone towers as it barrelled inland.

The Indian Navy reported on Tuesday that one support vessel serving oil rigs that were hit by immense waves off the coast of Mumbai sank and 96 of the 273 people who had been on board were missing.

The ministry of defence reported 177 people were rescued from the vessel, with operations expected to continue in “extremely challenging sea conditions”.

The cyclone was one of the most destructive to hit the area in decades, although better forecasting allowed for strong preparations. More than 200,000 people in risk areas were evacuated from their homes.

Trucks got stranded after cyclone Tauktae crushed transport networks

Mumbai authorities earlier on Monday closed the airport for hours and advised people to stay indoors as huge waves pondered the city’s seafront.

The deadly weather system comes at a time India is battling a covid-19 surge. This has hindered governments’ response to the pandemic that is killing at least 4,000 people daily and pushing the health system to breaking point.

Mumbai authorities on Sunday shifted nearly 600 COVID-19 patients in field hospitals “to safer locations.”

In Gujarat, where all COVID-19 patients in hospitals within five kilometres of the coast were relocated.

However a COVID patient died in the town of Mahuva after he could not be moved in time before the storm hit, doctors said.

Terrible double blow after cyclone Tauktae 

Udaya Regmi from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said, “This cyclone is a terrible double blow for millions of people in India whose families have been struck down by record COVID infections and deaths.” 

The organization said it was supporting authorities to relocate people from the risk coastal areas, providing first aid, masks “and encouraging other critical COVID-19 prevention measures”.

In May 2020, more than 110 persons died after “super cyclone” Amphan ravaged eastern India and Bangladesh in the Bay of Bengal.

The Arabian Sea before experienced fewer harsh cyclones than the Bay of Bengal but rising water temperatures because of global warming was the reason for this change, Roxy Mathew Koll from the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology said.

“(The) Arabian Sea is one of the fastest-warming basins across the global oceans,” he said.

The effects were felt far and wide with authorities in Nepal, some 2,000 kilometres from Gujarat, advising climbers on Everest and other mountains to stay put.

But climbers ignored the warnings and were heading up Everest, eyeing for the summit end of this week, a government official at the base camp said.

“I had already decided to wait for the summit after the 24th because the jet wind was in our region. Now the cyclone is also bringing moisture and possibly snow with it,” Dawa Steven Sherpa of expedition organizer Asian Trekking.

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