At least 21 people have died and nearly 100 people have disappeared after a monster cyclone crashed in western India, exacerbating the misfortune of millions of other people suffering from a devastating wave of coronavirus.
Hundreds of thousands were left without electricity after Cyclone Tauktae, one of the increasingly severe storms in the Arabian Sea, blamed for climate change, pounded the coast of Gujarat on Monday evening.
The cyclone enveloped gusts of up to 185 miles per hour, uprooting trees and tearing down power lines and cell phone towers as it barreled inland as it weakened slightly.
A support ship serving oil rigs that were hit by huge waves off the coast of Bombay sank and was missing 96 of the 273 people who had been on board, the Indian Navy said on Tuesday.
The defense ministry said 177 people were rescued from the ship, with operations expected to continue throughout the day in “extremely difficult maritime conditions”.
Pavni Mittal of Al Jazeera, a New Delhi reporter, said the colossal cyclone, the largest to hit the region in decades, has claimed at least 21 lives as wild winds have swept fragile homes and uprooted trees. and electric pylons.
Although the cyclone was one of the fiercest that affected the area, the best predictions that in recent years allowed strong preparations and more than 200,000 people were evacuated from their homes in danger zones.
On Monday, Bombay authorities closed the airport for several hours and urged people to stay inside as huge waves attacked the city’s boardwalk.
The deadly weather system has hampered India’s complicated response to a wave of coronavirus that kills at least 4,000 people daily and causes the health system to reach the breaking point.
“A lot of preparation was done for the cyclone considering we are still in the middle of a devastating second wave of pandemic,” said Mittal, of Al Jazeera.
Bombay on Sunday shifted some 600 COVID-19 patients to field hospitals “in safer places,” while sea level rose to three meters (10 feet) near the coastal city of Diu.
In Gujarat, all coronavirus patients were also transported to hospitals less than five kilometers (3.1 miles) from the coast. But a patient died in the city of Mahuva after he could not be relocated in time before the storm arrived, doctors said.
Authorities there struggled to make sure there would be no supply cuts to about 400 designated COVID-19 hospitals and 41 oxygen plants in the area.
More than 1,000 COVID-19 hospitals in coastal cities had been provided with generators, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani told reporters.
The state also suspended vaccines for two days. Bombay did the same for a day.
“Terrible double blow”
“This cyclone is a terrible double blow to millions of people in India whose families have been hit by record COVID-19 infections and deaths,” said Udaya Regmi of the International Federation of Red Cross Societies. and the Red Crescent.
The organization said it was helping authorities evacuate people most at risk to coastal areas, providing first aid, masks “and encouraging other measures to prevent COVID-19.”
Last May, more than 110 people died after the “super cyclone” Amphan ravaged eastern India and Bangladesh in the Bay of Bengal.
Previously, the Arabian Sea experienced fewer severe cyclones than the Bay of Bengal, but rising water temperatures due to global warming changed that, said Roxy Mathew Koll of the Institute. Indian Tropical Meteorology, in the AFP news agency.
“The Arabian Sea is one of the fastest warming basins in the global oceans,” he said.
The effects were felt far apart by Nepalese authorities, some 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) from Gujarat, and advised climbers of Mount Everest and other mountains to stay in one place.
But more than 200 climbers ignored the warnings and headed for Everest, looking toward this week’s summit, a government official said at base camp.
“I had already decided to wait for the summit after the 24th because the lightning wind was in our region. Now the cyclone is also bringing moisture and possibly snow, “Steven Sherpa, organizer of the Asian Trekking expedition, told AFP.
The cyclone was expected to bring substantial rainfall as far as New Delhi, more than 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) off the coast of Gujarat and as far as Uttarakhand, on the Himalayan border with Tibet.