A monster cyclone was lashing India Tuesday, with powerful winds and driving rain leaving at least 20 people dead, and interrupting the vaccine programme the country urgently needs to get its spiralling Covid-19 outbreak under control.
Cyclone Tauktae battered swathes of the vast nation, sending huge waves crashing onto its shores, turning streets into rivers and forcing hundreds of thousands of people to flee.
The colossal swirling system — the biggest to hit the region in decades — claimed lives in Kerala, Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat as savage winds swept through flimsy homes and uprooted trees and electricity pylons.
Mumbai authorities closed the airport and urged people to stay indoors, shifting about 600 Covid-19 patients in field hospitals “to safer locations”, while sea levels swelled as high as three metres (10 feet) near the seaside town of Diu.
Two navy ships were deployed to assist in search and rescue operations for a barge carrying 273 people adrift off Mumbai’s coast, with 28 picked up so far, the defence ministry said late Monday.
Tauktae made landfall in Gujarat on Monday as an Extremely Severe Cyclonic Storm packing gusts of up to 185 kilometres (115 miles) per hour, the Indian Meteorological Department said. It had been downgraded to a Very Severe Cyclonic Storm by Tuesday morning. By Sam Panthaky