The state government has evacuated over three lakh people living in low-lying areas and thatched houses in the coastal districts, while airports have been shut and over 70 trains cancelled as a precautionary measure. (Representative Image)
Ahmedabad/New Delhi: Cyclone Vayu has changed its course and may not hit the Gujarat coast as predicted earlier, the MeT department said Thursday, even as the state government maintained that the situation is still "critical".
The state government has evacuated over three lakh people living in low-lying areas and thatched houses in the coastal districts, while airports have been shut and over 70 trains cancelled as a precautionary measure.
It has also sounded an alert in the state and it will remain in place till Friday, a government official said.
Cyclone Vayu, which has turned into a "very severe cyclonic storm", was earlier expected to make landfall on the Gujarat coast by Thursday afternoon, but as per the latest weather report, the storm is around 150 km away from Veraval, in the coastal district of Gir Somnath.
The cyclone will move north-northwestwards, brushing past the Saurashtra coast, instead of making landfall, the report said.
The direction of the cyclonic storm has "slightly" changed, Ahmedabad-based meteorological centre's Additional Director Manorama Mohanty said.
"The 'very severe' cyclonic storm Vayu will not make landfall on the Saurashtra coast, but it will skirt the coast and affect Gir-Somnath, Junagadh, Porbandar, Devbhoomi-Dwarka districts and Union Territory Diu," she said.
"The eye of the storm will not enter Gujarat, but half of the storm, the outer peripheral part, will enter the state and affect the coastal areas. Though now it will not make landfall, it can cause damage and all the warnings for rainfall, ports and fishermen stay," she said.
The cyclone is situated around 150 km south-southwest of Veraval and around 210 km south of Porbandar, another coastal city in Gujarat, as per the latest India Meteorological Department (IMD) bulletin.
"It is very likely to move nearly north-northwestwards along Saurashtra coast, affecting Amreli, Gir-Somnath, Junagadh, Porbandar, Rajkot, Jamnagar, Devbhoomi-Dwarka and Kutch districts of Gujarat and Union Territory Diu with wind speed 155-165 kmph gusting to 180 kmph likely from afternoon," it said.
IMD Additional Director General Devendra Pradhan said the cyclone will remain in the sea and move parallel to the Gujarat coast."It has taken a slight westward movement. It will move parallel to the Gujarat coast," he said.
State Additional Chief Secretary for Revenue Pankaj Kumar said the cyclone is still dangerous and will leave its impact on the coast despite the fact that the "eye of the storm" is not expected to hit land.
"A cyclone is not about the eye of the storm. This storm is spread across 900 km. The risk is still there and severe winds and huge waves can cause damage in areas along the coastline. "The impact of the storm is important, not the landfall. The state government will continue to remain alert for the next 48 hours," he said.
Kumar said around three lakh people living in low-lying areas near the coast have already been evacuated and shifted to shelter homes set up for them.
No casualty has been reported so far due to the cyclone, he said.
"People have been advised to stay away from the coast. The situation is still critical. All the ports have been asked to hoist the storm warning signal number 9. Many areas near the coast are now receiving rain. The cyclone may bring very heavy to extremely heavy rain in some areas," Kumar said.
Besides taking help of the armed forces and the Coast Guard, the state government has deployed 33 teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) (each having 90 to 100 personnel) and nine teams of the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) in 10 coastal districts of the state, he said.
In addition, 11 columns of the army (each having nearly 70 personnel), two companies of the Border Security Force, 14 companies of the State Reserve Police and 300 commandos are deployed at different locations in the Kutch and Saurashtra areas.
The state government on Wednesday announced that operations at all the ports and airports situated near the coastline were halted for the time being.
The railways has cancelled 77 trains and short terminated 33 others due to Cyclone Vayu, the Western Railways said Thursday.
It has also decided to run special relief trains. Two such special evacuation trains have been run in Rajkot division and one in Bhavnagar division to clear passengers from coastal area that are affected by the cyclone.
Since all the airports in Kutch and Saurashtra have been asked to shut their operations completely, flights to these destinations from the Ahmedabad airport stand cancelled.