India and Pakistan are bracing for the first severe cyclone of the year, expected to hit the South Asian countries this week.
Authorities are making emergency preparations as Cyclone Biparjoy in the Arabian Sea approaches their coastal regions.
Here is what we know so far about the cyclone and the precautions being taken in India and Pakistan:
Where and when will the cyclone land?
From the Arabian Sea, Cyclone Biparjoy is aiming at Pakistan’s southern Sindh province and the coastline of the western Indian state of Gujarat.
Keep readinglist of 3 items
The cyclone will likely affect Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city with 20 million residents, as well as two of India’s largest ports, Mundra and Kandla, in Gujarat state, in addition to other areas in both countries.
India’s weather office on Tuesday said the cyclone is expected to hit Pakistan and India’s coasts on Thursday evening.
How strong is Cyclone Biparjoy?
Cyclone Biparjoy is classified as a very severe cyclonic storm.
It is predicted to land with a maximum sustained wind speed of 125-135km (78-84 miles) per hour, gusting to 150km (93 miles) per hour, according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD).
It has already killed people in India before making landfall.
High waves in the Arabian Sea, accompanied by a heavy downpour and gusting winds, pounded Gujarat’s coastal areas, uprooting trees and resulting in a wall collapse, killing three people in the Kutch and Rajkot districts of the state, according to authorities.
Police in Mumbai, India’s western metropolis that is south of Gujarat, said four boys drowned at Juhu beach on Monday evening.
How is India preparing?
Thousands of people are being evacuated from the coastal areas and fishing operations in Gujarat have been suspended till Friday while schools have declared holidays.
Gujarat is home to many offshore oil installations and major ports in the country and most have been forced to suspend operations.
According to the government, 21 teams of the National Disaster Response Force and 13 teams of the State Disaster Response Force have been deployed in the state for rescue work.
Kandla and Mundra ports in Gujarat have suspended operations, the state government said. Other ports including Bedi, Navlakhi, Porbandar, Okha, Pipavav and Bhavnagar have also closed due to the cyclone, according to reports.
Reliance Industries, which operates the world’s largest refining complex in Gujarat’s Jamnagar, declared a force majeure, suspending exports of diesel and other oil products from the state’s Sikka port due to the storm.
The Adani conglomerate’s ports business, Adani Ports, said it suspended vessel operations on Monday at Mundra, India’s biggest commercial port that has the country’s largest coal import terminal, and also at Tuna port near Kandla.
The Indian Coast Guard said it evacuated 50 personnel from a jack-up oil rig off Gujarat’s coast named Key Singapore, which is owned by Dubai-based Shelf Drilling, according to Shelf Drilling’s website.
What is Pakistan doing?
In Pakistan, swaths of coastal communities in southern Sindh province are expected to suffer storm surges.
The Pakistan Meteorological Department has warned that traditional mud and straw homes, which house the poorest in Pakistan, will be vulnerable to disintegration in high winds.
Authorities said that an emergency has been declared as they began evacuation efforts to move an estimated 80,000 citizens out of the path of the approaching cyclone.
Disaster management personnel have been deployed to regions and cities that will be in the storm’s path.