Cyclone Vayu: Over 1.5 lakh moved to safety



 Nearly 1.5 lakh people were evacuated to safer places from the coastal districts of Saurashtra region in Gujarat and two special evacuation trains were being pressed into service with cyclone Vayu likely to be more intense at 150 km per hour when it makes landfall in the state.

Flight operations from Ahmedabad's Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport to Porbandar, Diu, Kandla, Mundra and Bhavnagar in Saurashtra have been cancelled for Thursday, while all educational institutions have been shut and tourists on the Gujarat coast asked to steer out at the earliest, officials said.

Two special evacuation trains have been pressed into service with one starting from Okha in Saurashtra for Rajkot at 5.45 p.m. on Wednesday, and another at 8.05 p.m. for Ahmedabad with 21 coaches.

Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, who had a review meeting with the state administration at the State Emergency Operations Centre, told reporters that the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) had upgraded the possible wind velocity from up to 120 km per hour till Tuesday evening to 150 km per hour and gusting at 175 km per hour. 

We had earlier planned to shift only those living in kutcha (thatched) houses but in the wake of forecasts that the cyclone could be severe, decided to shift all the people in coastal villages, Rupani said.

The Chief Minister added that there was no other option but to evacuate the maximum number of people to safety. "The government's success would be in zero death," he said.

Rupani said more than 1.20 lakh people were shifted by around noon and many more would be moved by the evening.

Officials said as many as 47 National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and others had already arrived in Gujarat. The Chief Minister said: "The first impact of the cyclone was expected to be felt tonight and peak after 4 a.m."

On Tuesday, the Indian Air Force airlifted 160 NDRF jawans from Vijaywada to Jamnagar, while the NDRF announced on Wednesday that 12 more teams will be airlifted from INS Rajali (Tamil Nadu) and Patna (Bihar) to help people in Gujarat and neighbouring Union Territory of Diu. IANS