Gujarat begins evacuation of people from coastal areas as cyclone 'Vayu' inches closer

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AHMEDABAD: As cyclone 'Vayu' advances towards the Gujarat coast, the state government launched a massive evacuation exercise to shift about three lakh people from low-lying areas of Saurashtra and Kutch regions, officials said Wednesday.

According to the latest weather information, the cyclone has intensified into a "very severe cyclonic storm" and is located around 340 km south of Gujarat's Veraval coast.

It would hit the coast near Veraval as a very severe cyclonic storm "with a wind speed of 145 to 155 kmph gusting to 170 kmph around morning of June 13," a release issued by the meteorological department said.

The state government said the cyclone is likely to affect Kutch, Morbi, Jamnagar, Junagadh, Devbhoomi-Dwarka, Porbandar, Rajkot, Amreli, Bhavnagar and Gir-Somnath districts. People living in low-lying areas of these 10 districts are being shifted to safer places, it said.

Chief Minister Vijay Rupani on Tuesday appealed to people to cooperate in the evacuation process so that no life is lost due to the cyclone. Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel said late Tuesday night that the district authorities have begun shifting people living in low-lying areas or near the coast to safer places.

"We will shift nearly 2.91 lakh people living in around 400 villages of these 10 districts." They will be provided shelter in government buildings or those owned by various trusts and NGOs, he said.

"The state administration has drawn a detailed plan on who all should be shifted and we are working on it," Additional Chief Secretary (Revenue) Pankaj Kumar said. Around 36 companies of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) are already assisting the local administration in the process, he said.

As a precautionary measure, the holiday has been declared in schools, colleges and 'anganwadis' (government-run women and child care centres) on June 12 and June 13 in these 10 districts, he said. The Coast Guard, Army, Navy, Air Force and the Border Security Force have been put on high alert.

The Army has deployed 10 columns in the coastal areas of Gujarat. It has kept 24 columns on standby and is ready to carry out the rescue and relief operations, a defence spokesperson said in a release. Each column has a strength of about 70 personnel.

(THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS)