Gale-force winds, heavy rain and high tidal waves swept the coastal belt of Kerala, Karnataka and Goa as Cyclone Tauktae hurtled northwards towards Gujarat on Sunday, leaving at least five persons dead, damaging hundreds of houses, uprooting electricity poles and trees and forcing large-scale evacuation.
According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), Tauktae, which has intensified into a “very severe cyclonic storm”, is likely to intensify further during the next 24 hours and reach the Gujarat coast on Monday evening.
High wave warnings with flooding of low-lying areas and damage to property have been issued for Kerala, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Lakshadweep, and south Tamil Nadu. A joint bulletin issued by the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) in Hyderabad and IMD forecast “damage” over Porbandar, Amreli Junagarh, Gir Somnath, Botad and Bhavnagar, plus the coastal areas of Ahmedabad.
An estimated 1.5 lakh people are being shifted from low-lying coastal areas in Gujarat while 54 teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) have been deployed in the State.
Maharashtra, too, is bracing for the cyclone as the Met Department predicted heavy to very heavy rain at isolated places in north Konkan, Mumbai, Thane and Palghar, and extremely heavy rainfall in Raigad on Monday.
Four deaths were reported from Karnataka’s Uttara Kannada, Udupi, Chikkamagaluru and Shivamogga districts. Roads in coastal districts were washed away and about 12 km of beachfront from Kulai to Sasihithlu in Dakshina Kannada district was eroded, leaving several houses in danger.
Levels in Kerala dams up
The water level in many dams across Kerala rose after heavy rain in the catchment areas, prompting the authorities to sound an alert.
The IMD issued orange alerts for heavy to very heavy rain in three Kerala districts — Ernakulam, Idukki and Malappuram — and 11 districts have been put on yellow alert for Monday. The cyclone-related toll in the State went up to three after a 71-year-old woman from Kozhikode district died when a coconut tree fell on her on Saturday.
Gusty winds and heavy rain started lashing several parts of Goa since Sunday morning. Power supply in several areas was disrupted as hundreds of electric poles were uprooted due to the high-speed winds, State Power Minister Nilesh Cabral said. Restoration work was hampered due to the strong winds, he said.
“Many high tension 33 KV feeders are down due to the falling of trees. Even the 220 KV lines bringing power to Goa from neighbouring Maharashtra have been damaged,” he said.
The State Fire and Emergency Services control room was flooded with hundreds of calls from locals about the falling of trees and blocked roads, its director Ashok Menon said.
“Our force has been working since last night to clear the roads and remove trees which have fallen on the power lines,” Mr. Menon said.
Seven districts affected in Karnataka
In Karnataka, more than 70 villages in seven districts, including Dakshina Kannada, Kodagu and Hassan, were affected by the cyclone, the Karnataka State Disaster Management Authority officials said.
The highest rainfall of 385 mm was recorded at Nada Station in Kundapura taluk of Udupi district, which was the worst-affected, and 15 stations recorded more than 200 mm of rainfall in the district. Rainfall was accompanied by strong winds with speeds reaching up to 90 km per hour.
According to the Cyclone Warning Division of the IMD, by May 18 the wind speed is expected to increase to 150-160 km per hour, gusting up to 175 km per hour. High waves in the range of 3.5-6.6 m till Monday night and high winds are forecast beyond 10 km off the coast of Kerala, Karnataka. Maharastra, Goa and Gujarat, the INCOIS bulletin added.
Officials said nearly a dozen relief camps were functioning in the State. There had been damage to 112 houses, 139 electricity poles and other infrastructure in the coastal areas.
Severe sea erosion in the coastal districts of Kerala forced the district administrations to open more relief camps. Eight new camps have been opened in Alappuzha. In all, 359 people from 122 families have been shifted to 19 relief camps in the district. Rise in river water levels led to waterlogging in parts of Kuttanad. The Irrigation Department raised 23 shutters of the Thottappally spillway and majority of the Thanneermukkom bund.
In Ernakulam district, the coastal stretch from south Chellanam to Nayarambalam has been ravaged by sea erosion. The Thrissur district administration said spillway shutters of the Peringalkuthu dam would be opened if the water level crosses the permitted limit of 419.41 m. In a statement, the administration urged people living on the banks of Chalakudy river to be cautious.
Shutters of the Malankara dam in Idukki district are expected to be opened as the water level has increased, the district authorities said. Twenty-one houses were fully destroyed and 354 others were damaged in the district. Crop damage was reported in 294 hectares.
Families living in coastal areas and low-lying areas of the State have been shifted to relief camps. The Navy on Sunday deployed its diving and quick reaction teams in the coastal village of Chellanam in Ernakulam district, which was hit by tidal waves. Tidal waves also lashed Kaipamangalam, Chavakkad and Kodungallur in Thrissur, Pallithura in Thiruvananthapuram, Thri- kkannapuzha in Alappuzha, and Beypore and Koyilandy in Kozhikode districts.
The National Crisis Management Committee, headed by Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba, met on Sunday in the national capital. He directed the agencies to ensure “uninterrupted” functioning of COVID-19 hospitals in the States affected by the cyclone and secure “zero loss” of lives.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had on Saturday reviewed the preparedness of the States, Central Ministries and agencies concerned to deal with the situation arising out of the cyclone and asked them to take every possible measure to ensure that the people were safely evacuated.
The IMD said Tauktae would cross the Gujarat coast between Porbandar and Mahuva in Bhavnagar district by early Tuesday and tidal waves are likely to inundate several coastal districts during the landfall.
“The very severe cyclonic storm Tauktae over the east-central Arabian Sea moved nearly northwards with a speed of about 11 kmph during the past six hours,” it said.
“It is very likely to intensify during the next 24 hours. It is very likely to move north-northwestwards and reach the Gujarat coast on the evening of May 17 and cross the coast between Porbandar and Mahuva in Bhavnagar district early on May 18,” the IMD said. With the cyclone intensifying, wind speeds along and off the Gujarat coast in Porbandar, Junagadh, Gir Somnath and Amreli districts will reach 150-160 kmph gusting to 175 kmph by Tuesday morning.
It will reach a speed of 120-150 kmph, gusting to 165 kmph over Devbhoomi Dwarka, Jamnagar, Bhavnagar districts during the same period, the IMD said.
“With the cyclone likely to affect power supply, hospitals treating COVID-19 patients have been asked to ensure power back-up. Arrangements have also been made to ensure uninterrupted generation of medical oxygen in the eight manufacturing units and buffer stock has also been created,” Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said.
(With inputs from Hyderabad and PTI)