Rescue workers fear a “terrible double blow” of the cyclone for a country that has been suffering more than 4,000 coronavirus deaths each day
A deadly cyclone is bearing down upon India’s western coast, as the nation’s authorities scramble to evacuate hundreds of thousands of people.
Cyclone Tauktae, which has already killed six people within southern parts of the COVID-19 ravaged country, was expected to make landfall on Monday evening in Gujarat state with winds of up to 109 miles per hour.
Forecasters from the India Meteorological Department warned of possible extensive damage from high winds, heavy rainfall and flooding in low-lying areas.
This comes after Oxygen cylinders and ventilators landed in Delhi from the UK, but far more will be required, with India recording 320,000 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday, with total deaths rising close to 200,000.
The huge storm comes as the country battles a devastating coronavirus surge – and both the extreme weather and the virus could exacerbate the effects of the other.
Some vaccination efforts have been suspended in areas due to be struck by the cyclone and there is greater risk of coronavirus transmission within crowded evacuation shelters.
Lockdown measures, meanwhile, could slow the relief work after the storm, damage from which could destroy roads and cut the country’s vital supply lines for vaccines and medical supplies needed for coronavirus patients.
In Gujarat state, vaccinations were suspended for two days as officials worked to evacuate hundreds of thousands of people to temporary relief shelters.
In Maharashtra, usual operations at Mumbai city’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport had been suspended for five hours.
Fishing boats off the coast of both states returned to their harbours with thousands of rescue and relief teams, along with ships and aircraft, having deployed for recovery operations.
The South Asia head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Udaya Regmi, said the cyclone was a “terrible double blow” for families affected by the deadly COVID-19 surge.
This comes after mountaineers and authorities at a base camp at Mount Everest in Nepal have said that they are seeing rising numbers of climbers with symptoms for the COVID-19 virus and rising numbers for positive tests, raising the fears of a serious outbreak at the camp.
“The potential impacts of Cyclone Tauktae are frightening as this monster storm threatens the state of Gujarat,” he said.
“Every effort must continue to keep people safe from this dangerous storm and the raging pandemic.”
Changing climate patterns have caused devastating cyclones to become more intense on India’s western coast, where the storms are already relatively common.
Almost 100 people died after Cyclone Amphan, the most powerful storm to hit eastern India in more than a decade, swept through the region and left millions without power in May 2020.