International desk, June 13: The Western Railways of India cancelled 70 trains and curtailed the journeys of 28 others as Cyclone Vayu inched closer to the Gujarat coastline, growing stronger along the way.The cancellations came into effect from 6 pm on Wednesday, and is expected to extend over two days across affected areas, ndtv reports.
Union Earth Sciences Minister Harsh Vardhan said that Vayu — which intensified into a severe cyclonic storm two days ago — will hit the Gujarat coast on Thursday afternoon with a wind speed of 155-156 kilometres per hour.
The government has evacuated around 3.1 lakh people, and as many as 52 teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have been deployed for rescue and relief operations.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also tweeted to say that the centre was constantly monitoring the situation.
While the Gujarat government has evacuated over 3 lakh people from low-lying areas of Gujarat and 10,000 from Diu to safer places, the NDRF has “pre-positioned” 52 teams equipped with boats, tree-cutters and telecom equipment, Home Minister Amit Shah tweeted yesterday.
Two special trains — one running from Okha in Saurashtra to Rajkot and the other to Ahmedabad — have also been pressed into service to ensure that people are evacuated. The entire coastline remains under high alert.
The cyclone’s strength will continue to remain strong for 24 hours even after landfall, news agency PTI quoted an official as saying. All schools and colleges along the coastline will remain closed until the danger has passed, and naval diving teams have been kept on standby.
Cyclone Vayu made an impact in nearby Mumbai too, with nearly 400 flights being affected due to bad weather. According to PTI, as many as 194 departures and 192 arrivals were delayed, and at least two flights had to be diverted.
Flight operations at airports in Porbandar, Diu, Bhavnagar, Keshod and Kandla have been suspended for a period of 24 hours from midnight. A decision on the Surat airport will be taken after reviewing weather conditions.
Fishermen have also been advised against venturing the sea along the Gujarat coast until June 15. Chief Minister Vijay Rupani has already asked tourists in areas such as Dwarka, Somnath, Sasan and Kutch to leave for safer places.
The central government is “closely monitoring” the situation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, adding that he is constantly monitoring the situation with the help of the state governments concerned.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi also asked party workers in the state to help out in areas that are affected by the cyclone. “I pray for the security and well-being of all the people living in the areas expected to be affected,” he tweeted.
Cyclone Vayu was caused due to a deep depression in the Arabian Sea, the India Meteorological Department said. It has warned of heavy rain and winds at speeds of over 110 kilometres per hour in coastal areas of Saurashtra and Kutch until Friday.
Vayu comes close on the heels of Cyclone Fani, which hit the Odisha coast last month. Given how the eastern state efficiently handled the situation, the Gujarat government has contacted its administration for pointers on minimising loss to life and property.