A few hours after making landfall in India’s Gujarat, the wind speed of Cyclone Biparjoy has decreased to an average of 78 kilometres per hour (48 miles per hour), officials in the Indian state said.
Heavy rains, strong winds and high tides on Thursday hit India’s Gujarat coast and in neighbouring Pakistan with the two nations evacuating more than 180,000 people to safety before the cyclone made landfall.
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“As per Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) and local data collectors, the cyclone hit Gujarat at 10pm [17:30 GMT] with a high wind speed of 108kph [67mph] but it is now moving at an average speed of 78 kph [48mph] towards Bujh district close to the border with Pakistan,” Alok Pandey, Relief Commissioner of Gujarat, told reporters.
Biparjoy, which means “disaster” or “calamity” in the Bengali language, was centred in the Arabian Sea 30km (19 miles) off Jakhau port in the western Indian state close to the border with Pakistan, weather officials said.
Classified as a category one storm, the least severe on a scale of one to five, Biparjoy was expected to flatten temporary thatched homes in its way and damage standing crops, plantations and public infrastructure.
Before landfall, Biparjoy packed maximum sustained winds of up to 145kph (90mph) while situated approximately 280km (174 miles) from Jakhau port in western India’s Gujarat state.
The weather office has cautioned that there may be disruptions to the railway network. Tidal waves in the Arabian Sea could rise as high as two to three metres (seven to 10 feet), which could inundate low-lying coastal areas, the IMD warned.
More than 100,000 people have been evacuated from eight coastal districts in Gujarat and moved to shelters, the state government said.
In Pakistan, where authorities said evacuations have been completed, about 82,000 people were moved from high-risk coastal areas.
Makeshift relief quarters were set up in school auditoriums and other government buildings to shelter the displaced in both countries.
As the storm neared land, the windspeed rose around Jakhau, said Amit Arora, a revenue official in the region of Kutch (Kachchh), where more than 50,000 people have been evacuated.
Power supplies were disrupted across Kutch district in Gujarat due to strong winds, said Amit Arora, a top district official.
Indian television footage showed high waves crashing on the shores of many coastal areas of Gujarat, as winds bent tall trees and displaced some structures.
In the coastal town of Mandvi, a witness told Reuters that strong winds had uprooted trees, while other districts in the state also reported fallen trees and moderate rain.
Ships and boats have been moved from some areas of Pakistan’s coast and hospitals were put on high alert for the cyclone.
Khair Muhammed, a 46-year-old fisherman, has been staying for four days at a relief camp set up by the Sindh government in Golarchi, a city 170km (105 miles) north of Keti Bandar.
“We are given shelter in a small school that can accommodate 100 people. Life is quite difficult here,” Muhammed, who is there with his wife and eight children, told Al Jazeera.
“The government told us we cannot go back to our village before June 18, so all day, we just sit here, waiting and hoping the cyclone does not destroy our boats,” he said.
Karachi, an economic hub with a population of some 20 million people, faced no immediate threat, but emergency measures were being taken to protect against the expected winds and rain, said Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s climate change minister.
“There is no need to panic. Such storms are always unpredictable. But rest assured that we have all our arrangements in place,” said Rehman.
A 2021 study found that the frequency, duration and intensity of cyclones in the Arabian Sea had increased significantly between 1982 and 2019.