India evacuates hundreds of thousands as cyclone Vayu builds fury

National Disaster Response Force soldiers help villagers to evacuate from Naliya village in the western state of Gujarat on Wednesday, June 12, 2019. (NDRF via AP)
Updated 12 June 2019
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India evacuates hundreds of thousands as cyclone Vayu builds fury

  • Cyclone Vayu is set to cross the coast with sustained wind speeds of 145 kph to 155 kph
  • About 300,000 people are being moved from the most vulnerable areas into shelters

MUMBAI: India evacuated hundreds of thousands of people to shelters along the coast in its western state of Gujarat as a cyclone gathering intensity over the Arabian Sea was expected to hit land on Thursday.
Weather officials said Cyclone Vayu, with wind speeds equivalent to those of a Category 1 hurricane, is set to cross the coast with sustained wind speeds of 145 kph to 155 kph (90 mph to 96 mph), and could gust as high as 170 kph (106 mph).
The state government said it had begun moving about 300,000 people from the most vulnerable areas into shelters.
“We have started evacuation in coastal districts today morning,” a Gujarat disaster management official said on Wednesday.
The state’s chief minister, Vijay Rupani, has asked India’s military and its National Disaster Response Force for help with rescue and relief efforts if the cyclone causes widespread damage and disruption.
The federal home minister, Amit Shah, also urged officials to ensure swift restoration of utilities such as power, telecoms and drinking water if they are disrupted by the cyclone.
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) warned the cyclone could hold up the progress of annual monsoon rains, as the storm drew rain clouds from over the sea.
The monsoon was already about a week late in arriving at Kerala on the southern coast this year, and much of the country has broiled in a summer heatwave in recent weeks.
Gujarat is also home to large refineries and sea ports near the storm’s path.
India’s biggest oil refinery, owned by Reliance Industries, is in Gujarat, though a company official said the cyclone was expected to weaken by the time it reached the Jamnagar-based refinery.
“But in case the course changes or intensifies, the refinery is ready for any contingency,” he added, declining to be identified as he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Sikka Ports and Terminals, which handles crude oil and refined products for Reliance Industries, halted vessel berthing at a western port on Wednesday over a cyclone warning, according to a port notice.
The company’s ports also handle oil and refined products cargo for Bharat Oman Refineries, a subsidiary of state-run Bharat Petroleum Corp.
Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone is preparing to move employees at two ports it runs to safer areas, a spokesman said.
“Our Mundra and Tuna ports will be closest to the path,” he added. “All the necessary precautions are being put in place.”
Nayara Energy, owned by a consortium led by Russia’s Rosneft, said it was monitoring the situation and also taking precautionary measures at its Gujarat refinery.
In May, Cyclone Fani, the equivalent of a Category 4 hurricane, killed at least 34 people on India’s eastern coast, destroying houses and ripping off roofs.
Authorities had evacuated more than 1.2 million people in advance of the storm, after an even more powerful cyclone in 1999 killed about 10,000 people and caused damage running into billions of dollars.


‘They have crushed our voices’, Kashmiris on not being allowed to pray

Updated 6 min 50 sec ago
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‘They have crushed our voices’, Kashmiris on not being allowed to pray

  • More than 3,000 people have been arrested from different parts of the valley, media reports
  • Most of the big mosques have been shutdown to avoid people amassing for a large congregation

SRINAGAR, Kashmir: A strange silence engulfs Kashmir valley three weeks after the abrogation of the Article 370 that ensured a special autonomous status for Jammu and Kashmir in the Indian union.
This is the silence enforced by the fear of the gun after arrests of a large number of politicians, activists, lawyers, businessmen, and commoners.
“I have been summoned at least four times by the Indian troops and harassed, barring me from offering my prayers. I requested them, explaining that no one indulges in agitation in this area...” Hafiz Altaf Ahmed Shah, an imam at the local mosque told Arab News.
Media reports suggest that more than 3,000 people have been arrested from different parts of the valley and put in special detention centers in the semi-autonomous state or outside.
For those spared or lucky to avoid arrest, a lurking danger looms if they resist – be it a cleric or a professor, male or female, exercising restraint is the only option left.
In Srinagar and outside, most of the big mosques have been shutdown to avoid people amassing for a large congregation – a potential recipe for resistance.
“Our three story mosque is usually at full capacity but today, only 10 to 12 people offered Friday prayers because of the curfew,” Shah said.
Small and medium-sized mosques are under constant vigil. The clerics of these mosques have been ordered to lie low and not lead prayers in their mosques.
“We are being subjected to injustice by the Indian government and the world is aware. But no one is speaking on these issues. They have shut down our communication. They have silenced and crushed our voices,” Shah said.
Watch this exclusive video by Arab News to get a sense of what’s happening in the area.