Monday May 17, 2021
At least 12 people have died in torrential rain and winds as virus-hit India braces for the powerful Cyclone Tauktae, with tens of thousands being 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.
It is expected to make land in coastal Gujarat as early as Monday night, bringing wind speeds of around 150-160 kilometres per hour (93-99 miles per hour), the weather bureau added.
The deaths so far have been reported across coastal districts of four states: Karnataka, Kerala, Goa and Maharashtra.
Several towns and villages were flooded and properties damaged, officials added.
Up to 75,000 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, officials told AFP.
The Indian Meteorological Department is giving frequent updates on the movement of the cyclone on Twitter.
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.
With additional input from AFP