Hundreds of thousands of people have been evacuated along the western coast of India as a cyclonic storm with a possible wind speed as high as 170 kmph (106 mph) intensified into a severe cyclone over the Arabian Sea on Wednesday, authorities said.
The Indian Meteorology Department said the Cyclone Vayu was likely to hit the land on Thursday morning in western state of Gujarat and the nearby island of Diu with high velocity winds gusting at 145 to 170 kmph.
The weather office predicted heavy rains at several places in Gujarat.
The cyclone could flood low-lying coastal areas of the state, the weather report said, warning that high speed winds could damage rural dwellings and can carry off heavy objects and destroy telecommunications infrastructure.
Agricultural plantations along the storm’s path may also get damaged. The state authorities fear that roads and railway infrastructure may also take a hit in Gujarat which also houses large refineries and sea ports.
The authorities have urged fishermen not to venture into the sea for the next few days with instructions to ports to flag danger signals.
The state government said it had begun evacuating people and approximately 280,000 people were to be taken to temporary shelters during the storm's passage.
State Chief Minister Vijay Rupani tweeted that the administration was all geared up “to counter any adverse situation” due Cyclone Vayu.
Rupani has sought assistance of the federal government and urged the armed forces and India’s National Disaster Response Force for help with rescue and relief efforts in case the cyclone causes widespread damage.
According to the weather department, at 1 pm on Wednesday, the cyclone was 290 km away from the coast of the city of Mumbai in Maharastra.
Weather related catastrophes are common in South Asia and storms usually strike the Indian coast with great intensity resulting in fatalities and widespread damage to infrastructure.
The Cyclone Vayu coincides with an intense heatwave scorching the north and south of the country with mercury jumping to high in the last two weeks.
According to the weather office, New Delhi hit 48 degrees Celsius (118.4 degrees Fahrenheit) on Monday, the highest temperature ever recorded at this time of year.
In some cities, including Churu in the desert region of Rajasthan temperatures were recorded above 50 degrees Celsius.