'Waiting for instructions': Locals as Gujarat recovers after Biparjoy battering
All ports in Gujarat’s Saurashtra and Kutch, including Mundra and Kandla, were shut before Cyclone Biparjoy brought winds sustaining at 115 to 125 km per hour.
Ismail Sheikh, a truck driver, has not heard from his family since Cyclone Biparjoy made landfall in Gujarat and left him stranded at a roadside food stall without electricity since Thursday. His phone battery was dead and he was unsure when will he be able to contact his family and inform them that he was safe.
“There is no electricity here,” said Sheikh, who unloaded goods from Delhi at the Kandla Port before the cyclone left a trail of destruction. “I was supposed to transport more goods from Mundra to Haryana, but cannot do that now due to the storm.”
All ports in Gujarat’s Saurashtra and Kutch, including Mundra and Kandla, were shut before Cyclone Biparjoy brought winds sustaining at 115 to 125 km per hour and uprooted trees, electricity poles, and left at least two people dead. Around 100,000 people were moved to safer places before the cyclone made landfall.
Sheikh was among hundreds of truckers stranded on highways in the cyclone’s aftermath. They have taken shelter at roadside food stalls amid the post-cyclone chaos and uncertainty. Sheikh said he fears travelling in an empty or lightly loaded truck might expose his vehicle to potential damage.
Mohammad Kasam, another truck driver from Gujarat’s Bhuj who was to ferry electricity material for post-cyclone restoration work, said he was awaiting orders from his superiors. He said the assessment and finalisation of the installation material he was supposed to carry may have been delayed due to the impact of the cyclone.
“I am waiting for instructions...but so far, there is no word. ...I cannot venture out due to heavy rainfall and strong winds,” said Kasam.
The cyclone-hit areas were plunged into darkness, hampering communications and rescue work. The storm also decreased visibility in the region, making travel difficult.
Officials said efforts were underway to restore power and clear the roads blocked by fallen trees. “...for the past three days, there has been no electricity. The power lines are faulty, and the restoration process is still underway,” said Bharmal Sanjot, a Kutch resident. “Fortunately, our village has not suffered much damage. I have heard ...that the cyclone has caused significant destruction to the trees and greenery in Banni [known for its grasslands, greenery, and diverse wildlife].”
Thousands of rescue workers have been pressed into service after Biparjoy brought with it storm surges two to three metre high and winds that gusted up to 140 km per hour.
The landfall process started around 6.30pm. Jakhau and Mandvi towns of Kutch bore the brunt of the storm. Temporary sheds and hoardings collapsed due to the winds. Many low-lying localities were flooded following the incessant rain.
Officials said conditions were likely to remain bad in these and adjoining regions until Friday morning. Heavy to extremely heavy rain was expected to continue. Very to extremely heavy rain was likely in Rajasthan on Friday and Saturday.
Biparjoy originated in the Arabian Sea. It sustained for 222 hours with winds of at least cyclone strength (62 km per hour), the longest in the history of north Indian Ocean cyclones. The cyclone underwent rapid intensification twice..
Biparjoy was the second strongest or more intense cyclone to develop over the Arabian Sea in June jointly with a 1998 cyclone clocking maximum winds of 194.4 km per hour. The strongest June cyclone in the Arabian Sea was Gonu in 2007 with a wind speed of 268.54 km per hour.
Such rapid intensification of cyclones over the Arabian Sea is unusual and dangerous. Biparjoy was fuelled by extreme energy from the ocean. An unusually warm Arabian Sea and wind conditions helped nurture it for over 220 hours.
The true damage from Biparjoy was expected to be clearer by the weekend. At Okha, a tug sank after it drifted away from the anchor. A Coast Guard vessel at Kankai jetty in Okha harbour drifted away due to the storm. A vessel reported engine trouble at the Kandla Port in Kutch and began drifting.
Gujarat’s Dwarka, Okha, Naliya, Bhuj, Porbandar, and Kandla received heavy rainfall since Thursday morning. A similar unusual Arabian Sea cyclone (Tauktae) hit India’s west coast in 2021 and claimed the lives of 57 people on the first day of landfall. Tauktae was a rare storm since most cyclones develop off India’s east coast in the Bay of Bengal.
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