The Indian Navy was rushing to rescue crew members from a sunken barge and a second freighter that was adrift off Mumbai on Tuesday after a deadly cyclone hit the west coast.
The navy said it had saved 177 people out of the total 400 on the two barges in the Arabian Sea. Three frontline warships, maritime patrol planes and helicopters were part of the rescue operations and were roaming the sea, the navy said.
Both barges worked for Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, the largest crude oil and natural gas company in India. The company confirmed that the ships were in distress and that rescue operations were underway on its website.
Cyclone Tauktae, the most powerful storm to hit the region in more than two decades, brought sustained winds of up to 130 miles per hour when it made landfall in the state of Gujarat on Monday evening. Four people were killed in the state, bringing the storm’s total to 16.
Residents emerged from emergency shelters on Tuesday to find debris strewn on the roads, uprooted trees and damaged power lines.
In Maharashtra, six people were killed on Monday, but the state capital Mumbai was largely spared any major damage even as heavy rains hit the city’s coastline and high winds lashed its Skyscraper.
Over the weekend, the cyclone killed six people in the states of Kerala, Karnataka and Goa as it moved along the west coast.
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The cyclone has weakened, but the Indian Meteorological Department is forecasting heavy rains in many parts of Gujarat and Maharashtra in the coming days.
Before the cyclone, around 150,000 people were evacuated from low lying areas of the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat.
SN Pradhan, director of India’s National Disaster Response Force, said social distancing standards were followed in evacuation shelters and rescue teams were removing debris from affected areas.
The two states, already among the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, had scrambled disaster response teams over fears that the storm would endanger India’s fight against the coronavirus, with lines d supplies cut, roads destroyed and lockdowns slowing relief work.
Tropical cyclones are less frequent in the Arabian Sea than on the east coast of India and usually form later in the year. But experts say climate change has made them more intense, rather than more frequent.
In May 2020, nearly 100 people died after Cyclone Amphan, the most powerful storm to hit eastern India in more than a decade, ravaged the region.