At least 21 dead and 96 missing after monster cyclone slams into western India, compounding misery amid COVID pandemic.
Indian navy ships have recovered 22 bodies of people who were on board a barge that sank off Mumbai as a cyclone blew ashore this week, officials said.
The search is continuing for 55 more missing people, navy spokesman Mehul Karnik said on Wednesday.
He said the three ships and helicopters involved in the search had rescued 184 people in rough seas with waves of up to seven metres (25 feet).
Cyclone Tauktae, the most powerful storm to hit the region in more than two decades, packed sustained winds of up to 210km (130 miles) per hour when it came ashore in Gujarat state late on Monday. The storm left more than 50 dead in Gujarat and Maharashtra states.
The weather has since improved and the search operation for the missing people has been intensified, navy commander Alok Anand said.
A survivor told NDTV news channel that he jumped into the sea with his life jacket and was later picked up by the navy.
In another operation, a navy helicopter rescued 35 crew members of another barge, GAL Constructor, which ran aground north of Mumbai, a government statement said.
Both barges were working for Oil and Natural Gas Corp., the largest crude oil and natural gas company in India.
The company said the barges were carrying personnel deployed for offshore drilling and their anchors gave away during the storm. India’s biggest offshore oil rigs are located off Mumbai.
The Hindu newspaper reported that more than 16,000 houses were damaged by the cyclone in Gujarat state, home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi who on Wednesday conducted an aerial survey of the storm-hit areas.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi conducts an aerial survey of the #CycloneTauktae affected areas of Gujarat and Diu
The PM is conducting an aerial survey of areas such as Una, Diu, Jafarabad, and Mahuva today. He will also hold a review meeting in Ahmedabad later. pic.twitter.com/fJMJFDZJsf
— ANI (@ANI) May 19, 2021
The storm has piled pressure on Indian authorities as they grapple with a massive rise in coronavirus infections and deaths as well as a shortage of beds and oxygen in hospitals.
In Gujarat, among the hardest hit states by the second wave of the coronavirus, the cyclone has ripped out power pylons, damaged some 16,500 homes and blocked more than 600 roads, authorities said.
The state’s farm sector is also likely to have taken a hit, including the major mango growing belt of Saurashtra.
Officials said work to restore electricity supply and clear roads was ongoing, but some parts were still cut off.
“Mobile phone networks are still down in many areas, and I don’t think they will be restored by today (Wednesday),” Aayush Oak, the top official in Gujarat’s Amreli district, told Reuters news agency.
The storm has weakened into a depression centred over the south of Rajasthan state and adjoining Gujarat region, the Indian Meteorological Department said on Wednesday.
In neighbouring Nepal, authorities asked mountaineers to descend from high altitudes because the storm might bring severe weather.
Hundreds of climbers, guides and staff are attempting to climb various mountains in Nepal this month, when weather is usually the most favorable in the high altitudes. Nepal has eight of the world’s 14 highest peaks, including Mount Everest.
Nepal’s Department of Tourism on Tuesday asked climbers and outfitting agencies to monitor the weather and stay safe.
In 2014, snowstorms and avalanches triggered by a cyclone in India killed 43 people in Nepal’s mountains in the worst hiking disaster in the Himalayan nation.
The snowstorms were believed to be whipped by the tail end of a cyclone that hit the Indian coast a few days earlier.
The blizzards swept through the popular Annapurna trekking route and hikers were caught off-guard when the weather changed quickly.