Second Severe Storm in 10 Days to Batter Covid-Hit India
(Bloomberg) -- India is bracing for a second severe storm in the span of about 10 days, with authorities in the eastern region preparing to evacuate people to safer places at a time when the country is battling the world’s worst outbreak of Covid-19.
Cyclone Yaas, equivalent of a category 3 hurricane, will reach West Bengal and Odisha states on Wednesday, according to the India Meteorological Department. The “very severe” cyclone will bring heavy rains, with the wind speed surging as high as 185 kilometers (115 miles) per hour, the weather forecaster said.
The latest storm follows a severe cyclone that hit the west coast last week -- the worst in over two decades in the western state of Gujarat -- killing dozens after a barge sank in the sea. The eastern region was hit by a cyclone in May 2020 with similar wind speeds. Another one in 2019 had prompted authorities in the area to evacuate millions of people.
The timing of the storm poses several challenges for already-stressed authorities in the country, which is battling a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. The infections, which have strained India’s health system and overwhelmed crematoriums and hospitals, have been spreading to rural areas, where about 70% of country’s 1.3 billion population live.
Federal Home Minister Amit Shah asked the state governments to ensure adequate power backup for hospitals, laboratories, vaccine cold stores and other medical facilities, the ministry said in a statement.
Ports, refineries and plants stayed alert. Indian Oil Corp., the nation’s biggest refiner, stopped unloading crude oil at Paradip in Odisha and asked all ships to move 250 nautical miles away from the path of the cyclone, according to a company spokesman.
The Odisha government has identified more than 6,500 pregnant women with expected delivery dates before June 1, and are shifting them to hospitals on a priority basis, said Pradeep Jena, the state’s additional chief secretary.
The government will intensify the evacuation process after getting further clarity from the weather office on the time and location of landfall, he said in a text message.
In neighboring Bangladesh, the government has readied three times more storm shelters than usually needed to accommodate people evacuated from coastal areas, said Enamur Rahman, state minister for disaster management. But the country sees no major damage from the cyclone as it’s likely to move toward India’s Odisha, he said.
Both Paradip Port Trust and Dhamra Port said all vessels at the anchorage will move to a safer area in the sea, while those alongside berths have been asked to keep their main engines ready to move to sea at a short notice.
Oil explorers working in the Bay of Bengal have been asked to take all precautions to maintain safe operations, the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons said in a Twitter post. Oil and Steel Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said that as a precautionary measure all major oil and steel industrial units along the east coast will operate with minimum manpower for the next two to three days.
Authorities are cautious this time after a fatal accident last week. The Indian Navy recovered 70 bodies after a barge and a tug boat, working for state-run Oil & Natural Gas Corp., sank following cyclone Tauktae that hit the west coast on May 17. The navy rescued 188 people, but some are still missing.
The National Disaster Response Force has deployed almost 100 teams along India’s east coast, the agency said in Twitter posts.
Sea levels may reach as high as 2 meters above astronomical tides and inundate some low-lying areas, the weather department said, advising fishermen not to venture into the sea until at least May 26.
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