By Rajendra Jadhav
MUMBAI (Reuters) – A storm off India’s west coast has strengthened to become a powerful cyclone and could hit India’s western state of Gujarat and southern parts of Pakistan this week, the Indian weather department said on Monday.
The cyclone, named Biparjoy, is expected to make landfall on Thursday afternoon between Mandvi in Gujarat and Karachi in Pakistan with a maximum sustained wind speed of 125-135 km (78-84 miles) per hour, gusting to 150 km (93 miles) per hour, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
Nearly a dozen districts in coastal Gujarat will be affected by heavy rainfall and gusting winds although some of these are sparsely populated, which would limit the damage, said a weather office official, who declined to be named.
Fishermen in Gujarat have been advised against going to sea and those at sea have been called back, with 21,000 boats parked so far, the government said on Monday.
Offshore oil installations have also been asked to ensure the immediate return of all manpower, and two of India’s largest ports – Kandla and Mundra – located in Gujarat have been alerted while other ports have been advised for preventive action.
The Adani conglomerate’s ports business, Adani Ports, said in an exchange filing that it suspended its vessel operations on Monday at Mundra, India’s biggest commercial port that has the country’s largest coal import terminal, and also at Tuna port near Kandla.
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The Indian Coast Guard said it was evacuating 50 personnel from a jack-up oil rig off Gujarat’s coast named Key Singapore, which is owned by Dubai-based Shelf Drilling and currently working for Cairn Oil & Gas (Vedanta Ltd.), according to Shelf Drilling’s website.
Shelf Drilling and Cairn Oil & Gas did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Gujarat Pipavav Port Limited said in a stock exchange filing on Monday that operations at its Pipavav Port had been suspended since late Saturday evening due to “prevailing severe weather conditions”.
Ten teams of the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) and 12 of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have been deployed in Gujarat, the government said, with three more NDRF teams on standby and another 15 ready to be airlifted from other states on short notice.
“Rescue and relief teams of the Coast Guard, Army and Navy along with ships and aircraft have been kept ready on standby,” it said.
In neighbouring Pakistan, the National Disaster Management Authority said instructions were being given to take precautionary measures in southern and southeastern parts that may be affected.
“Its (cyclone’s) evolving impact will only be certain with further development of the situation,” the authority said.
A 1998 cyclone killed at least 4,000 people and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage in Gujarat.
Biparjoy has delayed the onset of the annual monsoon over the southern state of Kerala, but now conditions are favourable for the progress of much-needed rains in more areas of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu states, India’s weather office said.