(Karachi, Pakistan) – More than 150,000 people have been urgently evacuated from the projected path of Cyclone Biparjoy, a powerful storm set to unleash destruction in India and Pakistan. The cyclone, whose name translates to “disaster” in Bengali, is barreling across the Arabian Sea and is expected to strike India’s Gujarat state before making its way to Pakistan’s Sindh province.
Forecasters have issued grave warnings, highlighting the potential for significant damage to homes, crops, and infrastructure. Tragically, heavy rains in India have already claimed the lives of at least seven individuals.
Among the victims are two children tragically crushed by a collapsing wall, and a woman who was struck by a falling tree while riding a motorbike, according to reports from the French news agency.
In anticipation of the storm’s impact, authorities in Pakistan have successfully evacuated 81,000 individuals from the vulnerable southeastern coast. To provide shelter and assistance, 75 relief camps have been established at schools in the affected areas.
While Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city with a population exceeding 20 million, is not immediately threatened, emergency measures are being implemented as a precautionary measure, as stated by Pakistan’s Climate Change Minister, Sherry Rehman.
Meteorologists describe Cyclone Biparjoy as a “very severe cyclonic storm” with sustained wind speeds reaching up to 135 km/h (84 mph) and gusts up to 150 km/h (93 mph).
They have also raised concerns about the potential for high tides to inundate low-lying coastal regions. Since Wednesday, several parts of coastal Gujarat have experienced heavy rainfall and strong winds, exacerbating the precarious situation.
The cyclone is expected to make landfall between 4 pm [10.30 GMT] and 8 pm local time near the Jakhau port, situated between Mandvi in Gujarat and Karachi in Pakistan, as confirmed by Gujarat’s weather chief.
Reports from Mandvi reveal the presence of strong winds and rough sea conditions, underscoring the imminent danger faced by coastal communities.
In preparation for the cyclone’s impact, authorities have conducted the evacuation of 67,000 people residing in coastal areas of Gujarat.
The suspension of train services in the region and the halt of operations at the Kandla and Mundra ports, two major Indian ports, have been implemented to safeguard against potential damage.
With fishing activities suspended along the Gujarat coast and warnings issued to fishermen in Pakistan’s coastal regions, precautions are being taken to prevent further loss of life. Additionally, six national disaster relief teams have been deployed to the vulnerable Kutch region of Gujarat to provide essential relief and assistance.
Their primary objective is to ensure the continuity of vital services and, when possible, restore normalcy in the aftermath of the cyclone’s impact.
While the India Meteorological Department expects Cyclone Biparjoy to weaken in intensity after crossing, the devastating potential of such cyclones remains a recurring and deadly phenomenon in the Indian Ocean.
Rising surface temperatures in the Arabian Sea, attributed to climate change, have heightened the vulnerability of surrounding regions to catastrophic storms.
In recent memory, the region was struck by Cyclone Tauktae in May 2021, which claimed the lives of 174 individuals.
The ongoing evacuations for Cyclone Biparjoy have rekindled painful memories of a cyclone that devastated the Gujarat coast 25 years ago, leaving behind a trail of death and destruction. While official figures indicate a death toll of approximately 4,000, locals maintain that the actual number of casualties is significantly higher.
Yaqoob Ahmed, a 50-year-old fisherman taking shelter at a primary school, shares his apprehension, stating, “We have witnessed cyclones in the past, but this time it appears far more menacing.” Alongside 150 others seeking refuge, he expresses uncertainty about the state of their homes upon their return, recounting how the waves have already encroached upon their coastal residence.
As the region braces for the devastating impact of Cyclone Biparjoy, the safety and well-being of affected communities remain of utmost concern. Continuous monitoring, relief efforts, and support from authorities and relief organizations are paramount to mitigate the potential devastation and aid in the recovery process.