States on the western and southern coasts of India are bracing for heavy rains, as Cyclone Tauktae intensified into a cyclonic storm on Saturday afternoon. In its latest update at 1 pm, the IMD said that the storm is likely to intensify into a 'severe cyclonic storm' in six hours and into a 'very severe cyclonic storm' in 12 hours.
The Central Water Commission (CWC) also issued an 'orange bulletin' for Tamil Nadu and Kerala, predicting a severe flood situation in the states, reports said.
"As of 8 am today morning, rivers Manimala, Achankovil in Kerala and Kodaiyar in Tamil Nadu were flowing in the 'severe situation', all three above their danger levels," The Times of India reported.
Facing incessant waves and strong winds since Friday night, Kerala has issued a red alert for Malappuram, Kozhikode, Wayanad, Kannur and Kasargod districts on Saturday.
The IMD also said that thunderstorms with moderate rainfall and gusty winds at 40 kilometres per hour are likely at one or two places in Alappuzha, Kottayam, Idukki, Ernakulam, Thrissur, Palakkad, Malappuram, Kozhikode, Wayanad, Kannur and Kasaragod districts.
Scores of houses were damaged and the power supply was disrupted for hours across the state, PTI reported.
As the water level in major rivers like Meenachil, Achankovil and Manimala rose steadily on Saturday, authorities cautioned people living on its banks to be vigilant.
The shutters of the Kallarkutty, Malankara and Bhoothathankettu dams in the Idukki district were opened, and that of the Maniyar in Pathanamthitta was raised as a precautionary measure following high inflow in the catchment area.
Flood-like situations were seen in Ernakulam district's Chellanam as rough sea and high tidal waves wreaked havoc. Additionally, Kaipamangalam, Chavakkad and Kodungallur in Thrissur, Pallithura in Thiruvananthapuram, Thrikkannapuzha in Alappuzha and Beypore and Koyilandy in Kozhikode districts were also affected.
Initial reports said hundreds of houses were damaged in coastal belts across the state as sea water seeped in following high waves, PTI reported.
The Indian Navy said that it will deploy diving teams with with inflatable boats for rescue and relief assistance in Chellanam, The Times of India reported.
Congress leader and Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi appealed for assistance for the affected states.
Narendra Modi reviews preparation; NDRF deployed in Mumbai, Goa
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will hold a meeting to review preparations to deal with the cyclone, PTI reported.
The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has earmarked 53 teams to tackle possible fallout of the storm. The Indian Express reported that four NDRF teams have been deployed in Mumbai and Goa, and 14 others are on standby.
"These teams are equipped with boats, rescue equipment and the team members include engineering, paramedic, technical experts and also a dog squad. The configurations of these teams change as per the nature of emergency," the report said.
States brace for cyclone impact; airlines issue travel advisories
Other states like Maharashtra, Goa, and Tamil Nadu also made preparations to absorb the impact of the cyclone, which is likely to cross the Gujarat coast on 18 May.
Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray directed authorities in coastal districts to remain alert and be well-equipped to tackle the situation. "Be alert and ensure rescue operation wherever necessary," Thackeray was quoted as saying in a statement issued by the Chief Minister's Office (CMO) on Friday.
Palghar, Raigad, Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg districts are likely to bear the brunt of the cyclone and hence the collectors of these districts have been asked to take all necessary precautions in terms of rescue equipment and manpower, Thackeray said.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), which suspended vaccination in Mumbai for two days as a precautionary measure against the cyclone, said that it was taking steps to cut potentially dangerous tree branches, and dewatering pumps are being stationed in low-lying areas.
It added that temporary shelters will be opened if required and rescue teams would be deployed on six main beaches. Already 384 dangerous trees close to COVID-19 centres have been pruned.
Mumbai mayor Kishori Pednekar was quoted as saying, "We have been alerted that the cyclone may affect us on 15 and 16 May. So we are doing our efforts along the coastline areas. We are trying to shift people who are prone to be affected by this cyclone in Mumbai limits. All Jumbo Covid centres have been asked to remain on standby & if needed, patients will be shifted to other places. We are watching the situation closely."
In Goa, authorities are counting on the COVID-19 curfew to aid in minimising the impact of the cyclone.
The Goa Fire and Emergency Services said it has kept its personnel ready to tackle the situation, director Ashok Menon told PTI. The Emergency Services, with its force of 800 personnel, have taken proactive steps in this regard, he added.
"The cyclonic winds and rains that lashed the state on Friday did not cause much damage," Menon said.
The disaster management response forces of the state's two districts " South Goa and North Goa " led by the respective collectors, held meetings on Friday to check the preparedness.
Airlines IndiGo and Vistara issued a travel advisory for cities on the southern and western coasts.
In a statement, Vistara said, "Due to the adverse weather conditions expected over the Arabian Sea, flights to and from Chennai, Thiruvanathapuram, Kochi, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Pune, Goa and Ahmedabad are likely to be impacted till May 17, 2021."
The Airport Authority of India reportedly said that there is no immediate plan to shut airports in cities likely to be affected by the cyclone.
"Right now it is not clear that which area will be most affected due to the cyclone. We do not have a plan to shut the airports as of now. After IMD alerted us about the recent cyclone Tauktae, AAI is closely monitoring the weather patterns and how it will affect... Accordingly, if the parameters are not in accordance with the aircraft operation then only we will take action," an official was quoted as saying by The Times of India.
IMD issues alerts for Lakshadweep, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu
The cyclone division of the IMD said that from 16 to 19 May, the storm is very likely to intensify into a "very severe cyclonic storm" with a wind speed of 150-160 kilometres per hour gusting up to 175 kilometres per hour.
It said the Lakshadweep Islands will receive heavy to very heavy rainfall at isolated places on Saturday and heavy rainfall at isolated places on Sunday.
The ghat districts of Tamil Nadu are expected to witness light to moderate rainfall at many places, with 'heavy' to 'very heavy falls' and 'extremely heavy falls' at isolated places on Saturday.
Karnataka (coastal and adjoining ghat districts) are likely to receive 'light to moderate' rainfall at most places with 'heavy to very heavy' rainfall at a few paces, and 'extremely heavy' rainfall at isolated places on Saturday. The state is likely to see 'heavy' rainfall at isolated places on Sunday.
Konkan and Goa are expected to receive 'heavy to very heavy' rains on Saturday and Sunday.
The coastal districts of Saurashtra in Gujarat are likely to receive rainfall from Sunday, and heavy to very heavy falls are expected on 17 May.
Heavy to very heavy falls at a few places, extremely heavy falls at isolated places over Saurashtra and Kutch are likely on 18 May, the IMD said.
The name 'Tauktae' has been given by Myanmar which means 'gecko'. This is going to be the first cyclonic storm of this year along the Indian coast.
With inputs from PTI