India’s western state of Gujarat is braced for cyclone Tauktae, reported to be the strongest storm to hit the region since 1998.
At least six were killed and thousands evacuated in the last two days amid heavy rains accompanying the storm.
The meteorological department said the storm has now intensified into an “extremely severe cyclonic storm”.
The cyclone comes amid a devastating second Covid wave which has overwhelmed India’s healthcare system.
The storm is expected to make landfall in Gujarat on Monday night with wind speeds of up to 160km/h (99mph).
Both Gujarat and its neighbouring state Maharashtra are on high alert amid forecasts of heavy rains and wind.
Cases are on the wane in both states, but they are still recovering from the effects of a devastating second wave.
More than 150,000 people in low-lying areas of Gujarat have already been moved to shelters, sparking fears of possible new outbreaks in coming weeks.
The storm also add to the challenge facing India’s hospitals and Covid centres – Maharashtra’s capital Mumbai, for instance, which is on the coast and on high alert, has already moved 580 Covid positive patients from dedicated centres to civic hospitals as a precaution.
The city has also said its airport will be closed between 11:00 and 14:00 local time.
Officials have advised people to stay indoors – they anticipate flooded roads, damaged power lines and uprooted trees because of heavy rains and heavy winds.
Thousands of fishing boats off the coast of both states have returned to the harbour, and hundreds of merchant ships have been asked to re-route.
Teams from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have been deployed in both states.
Rains from the storm have killed six people in Kerala, Karnataka and Goa over the weekend as it moved along the country’s western coastline. Houses were destroyed and electricity was disrupted across several districts in these states.
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