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Six dead as powerful cyclone heads for India

AFP logo AFP 5/17/2021 AFP
a boat sitting on top of a wooden dock: Cyclone Tauktae -- India's first major tropical storm this season -- is moving northwards, bringing heavy rains, thunderstorms and strong winds to several states © Indranil MUKHERJEE Cyclone Tauktae -- India's first major tropical storm this season -- is moving northwards, bringing heavy rains, thunderstorms and strong winds to several states

At least six people have died in torrential rain and winds as virus-hit India braces for a powerful cyclone, officials said Sunday, with more than 150,000 residents set to be evacuated from their homes.

Cyclone Tauktae -- India's first major tropical storm this season -- is moving northwards in parallel with the country's western coast, bringing heavy rains, thunderstorms and strong winds to several states, the meteorological department said.

a fire hydrant in the middle of a forest: National Disaster Response Force staff clear fallen trees from a road following severe cyclonic storm 'Tauktae' at Margao in Goa © - National Disaster Response Force staff clear fallen trees from a road following severe cyclonic storm 'Tauktae' at Margao in Goa

It is expected to make land in coastal Gujarat early Tuesday, bringing wind speeds of around 155-165 kilometres per hour (96-102 miles per hour) gusting up to 185 kilometres per hour, the weather bureau added.

Thousands of disaster response personnel had been deployed to the states, while units from the coast guard, navy, army and air force had been placed on standby, Home Minister Amit Shah said in a statement.

Four people lost their lives on Saturday as torrential rain and winds battered Karnataka state, the disaster management authority said Sunday.

Several towns and villages were flooded and properties damaged, officials added. 

Two people died in the resort state of Goa, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said Sunday, adding that power supply had been disrupted while some 200 houses were damaged, roads were blocked and trees uprooted.


Video: Severe cyclone heading to western India, 4 dead (Dailymotion)

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Two others were reported dead and 23 fishermen were feared missing in Kerala, local media said.

More than 150,000 people are set to be evacuated from coastal districts in Gujarat, where the ongoing Covid-19 vaccination rollout will be suspended on Monday and Tuesday, the state government said.

The meterological department has warned of storm surges of up to three metres high (9.8 feet) in some coastal districts of Gujarat.

Hospitals with coronavirus patients in the affected districts were also backing up their power supply, local district development officer Varunkumar Baranwal told AFP. 

Oxygen and power supply to hospitals in the state would be uninterrupted, Maharashtra said, while hundreds of virus patients will be moved from field hospitals.

India is already battling a deadly wave of infections that has pushed its healthcare system to breaking point, leading to severe shortages of hospital beds, oxygen and medicines.

The vast nation of 1.3 billion people reported just over 311,170 new infections on Sunday, taking the total tally to nearly 24.7 million. 

The death toll rose to more than 270,000 after 4,077 deaths were officially recorded over the past 24 hours. Experts say the actual toll could be significantly higher.

Last May, more than 110 people died after "super cyclone" Amphan ravaged eastern India and Bangladesh, flattening villages, destroying farms and leaving millions without electricity.

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