Gujarat is bracing for the impact of Cyclone Tauktae, which is expected to hit the state's coastline tonight.
A number of teams of departments such as forest, roads and buildings, health, revenue and electricity have been deployed. Besides, 41 teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have also been deployed along with 10 teams of the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF). Three teams of the NDRF have been kept in reserve, according to a media release by the state government.
At least 17 COVID-19 patients on ventilator support in Gujarat's Porbandar Civil Hospital's ICU have also been shifted to other facilities as a precautionary measure.
Tauktae has intensified into an 'extremely severe cyclonic storm' and the impact it will have on Gujarat remains to be seen. Nevertheless, it is apparent that the state government has learnt its lessons from the 1998 'super cyclone', which had caused widespread devastation in the state.
Here is a look back at the 1998 cyclone in Gujarat and the response of the authorities at that time.
'Super cyclone' of 1998
The 1998 Gujarat cyclone had originated near the Lakshadweep Islands and hit the Kandla port on 4 June. According to the estimates of the Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority, the storm left 1,173 people dead, 1,774 people missing and causes losses of about Rs 18.65 billion. However, according to unofficial estimates, up to 10,000 people have been killed in the cyclone.
The cyclone had generated a maximum windspeed of about 160 kilometres per hour.
Due to the cyclone, about 20 vessels and ships, weighing 20,000 to 40,000 tons were swept away to Satsaida island, situated off Kandla port. Thousands of animals also perished and over 1.50 lakh houses and other structures collapsed, as noted by an article in The Hindu Business Line.
The BJP government in the state at the time was accused of not doing enough to prepare itself for the cyclone.
An India Today report noted that the government did not act despite warnings from the India Meteorological Department specifically for the Saurashtra and Kutch coastline, which includes Kandla. Government help only arrived after thousands had died due to the cyclone.
However, the devastating cyclone acted as a wake up call for the administration, which put in place disaster management measures for future cyclones. As noted by the India Today article, the state now has its own detailed Cyclone Preparedness and Response Plan. As per the plan, state authorities have to gear up emergency operations soon after the first warning is released by the IMD about an approaching cyclone.
In 2019, the state government was prepared to deal with Cyclone Vayu, which was also predicted to hit the Gujarat coastline. The port regulator, Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB), had ordered the suspension of all port activity in the state at the time.
Officials at Kandla Port had closed all 17 jetties and moved ships as well as vessels to safety. Around 2,700 employees were also directed to shift to safer areas along with their families.
However, as it turned out, the cyclone spared Gujarat and turned westwards into the Arabian Sea before eventually dissipating.
With inputs from PTI