MAY 25

Super-cyclone heads for Gujarat


EXACTLY FOUR months after being devastated by a major earthquake, Gujarat is braced for a super-cyclone that is expected to hit the state's southern coast between Surat and the Gulf of Cambay sometime between Thursday and Friday evening.

Gale force winds reaching 220 kmph are likely in the central areas of the storm around the time it hits the coast.

Amid reports that over 1,000 fishermen were out at sea, a red alert has been sounded all over the state. The route adopted by cyclone till now is towards the thickly populated and highly developed economic zone.

The districts that are expected to bear the brunt of the cyclone's fury are Bhavnagar, Junagadh, Jamnagar, Rajkot, Surat, Kutch, Valsad, Navsari, Anand and Bharuch.

A cyclone warning issued by the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) says that yesterday's cyclonic storm has intensified further with wind speeds of 180-200 kmph. It has moved slowly in a north by north-west direction and on Thursday afternoon was centred about 380 km south of Veraval. The system is likely to move in the same direction but possibly recurve and cross the Gujarat coast on Saturday.

The cyclone described by the local met office as an enormous one, is moving at a speed of 10 kmph in the northern direction.

IMD chief A B Mazumdar said, “The slow progress of the cyclone is a sign that it may take a turn.” However, he said it was premature to predict whether the cyclone would definitely change course again.

“If the cyclone hits Gujarat, gale winds of very high velocity and storm surge is expected,” Mazumdar added.

Meanwhile, all 14 taluks in Surat have been alerted and officials provided with walkie-talkie sets. Trucks have been kept ready to evacuate people from low-lying areas if it rains on Thursday evening. The Gujarat government has also asked the army to be prepared for rescue missions.

The major ports in Gujarat have sent out extreme warnings and people are being evacuated. “Ships and vessels have warned not to enter the shipping zone,” a Kandla Port Trust spokesman said. Large parts of Gujarat were devastated by super-cyclones in 1998 and 1999.