June 11, 2019 / 2:34 PM / 5 months ago

India to evacuate thousands as cyclone nears west coast

MUMBAI (Reuters) - Indian authorities are preparing to evacuate 300,000 people along the western coast as a severe cyclone is expected to make landfall on Thursday morning in the state of Gujarat.

An India Meteorological Department scientist monitors Cyclone Vayu inside his office in Ahmedabad, India, June 11, 2019. REUTERS/Amit Dave

Storm Vayu, which formed in the Arabian Sea, is likely to cross the Gujarat coast with gust speeds as high as 135 kmph (84 mph), the India Meteorological Department said in a statement.

It also warned the cyclone could further delay the progress of the annual monsoon rains over the rest of India, as the storm was drawing rain clouds from over the sea.

The arrival of the monsoons on the southern coast of Kerala was already about a week late this year.

Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani told reporters he had asked for help from the military and the National Disaster Response Force for rescue and relief work in cases the storm causes large scale disruption.

Gujarat is also home to large refineries and sea ports that lie near the storm’s path, officials said.

A spokesman for Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Ltd said it was preparing to move employees at two ports it runs in the state to safer areas.

“Our Mundra and Tuna ports will be closest to the path. The disaster management plan has been put into action and all the necessary precautions are being put in place including evacuation of staff if the need arises,” the spokesman said.

India’s biggest oil refinery, owned by Reliance Industries, is also based in Gujarat.

A Reliance executive said the cyclone is expected to weaken by the time it reaches the Jamnagar-based refinery.

“But in case the course changes or intensifies, the refinery is ready for any contingency,” the executive said, declining to be named because he was not authorized to speak to journalists.

Nayara Energy, which is controlled by Russia’s Rosneft and also operates a refinery near Reliance’s unit, said it was monitoring the situation and taking precautionary measures.

In May, Cyclone Fani killed at least 34 people on India’s eastern coast, destroying houses and ripping off roofs.

Two decades ago, a super-cyclone battered the coast of Odisha for 30 hours, killing 10,000 people.

The government plans to start moving some 300,000 people from the most vulnerable areas from Wednesday morning into shelters. Home Minister Amit Shah asked officials to ensure any power, telecommunications and drinking water supplies affected by the cyclone are restored as soon as possible afterwards.

Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Andrew Cawthorne

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