Cyclone Tauktae: Rajnath asks three services to provide all assistance to civil administrations

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New Delhi, May 17 (PTI) Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday directed the three services to provide all possible assistance to the civil administrations in the coastal states of Maharashtra and Gujarat in tackling the situation arising out of cyclone Tauktae.

Singh issued the instruction after reviewing the preparedness of the armed forces to deal with the fallout of the cyclone.

'The defence minister directed the three services to provide all possible assistance to the civil administration to deal with the emerging situation,' the defence ministry said.

Singh carried out the review at a video conference which was attended by Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat, Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar, Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal R K S Bhadauria and Army Chief Gen M M Naravane among others.

The ministry said three ships of the Indian Navy have been put on standby with aid and relief materials for providing immediate assistance to affected areas if required.

Several other ships on the Western seaboard are also being kept ready for any deployment, including for search and rescue of fishing boats, while the Navy's maritime reconnaissance aircraft are continuously broadcasting cyclone warnings to fishermen, officials said.

The defence minister was informed that 11 Indian Navy diving teams have been kept on standby while 12 flood rescue teams and medical teams have been formed to provide assistance to civilian authorities, they said.

'Repair and rescue teams have also been formed to undertake urgent infrastructural repairs post-cyclone if required,' the defence ministry said in a statement.

'Rajnath Singh was also informed that the assets of the Indian Navy were pressed into service to rescue the stranded crew of Indian flagged Tug 'Coromondel Supporter XI' off Karnataka coast. Another helicopter from naval air station in Goa has been deployed to assist in the search of missing crew members of Indian flagged Tug Alliance,' it said.

The defence minister was informed that the Indian Air Force (IAF) has deployed its aircraft to transport personnel and equipment of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) to Ahmedabad.

On May 16, the IAF had deployed two C-130J and one An-32 aircraft for transportation of 167 personnel and 16.5 tonnes of load of the NDRF from Kolkata to Ahmedabad.

Another C-130J and two An-32 aircraft carried 121 NDRF personnel and 11.6 tonnes of load from Vijayawada to Ahmedabad for the same purpose. Two C-130J aircraft transported 110 personnel and 15 tonnes of cargo for NDRF from Pune to Ahmedabad.

'Rajnath Singh was also briefed that two Army columns have been mobilised from Jamnagar for Diu along with Engineer Task Force. Two more columns staged forward to Junagadh for immediate response in case the need arises. He was informed that the Army is in constant touch with the civil administration,' the ministry said.

Cyclonic storm Tauktae over the Arabian Sea led to very strong winds blowing at a speed of 114 kmph in Mumbai, civic officials said.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has said that Cyclone Tauktae has now intensified into an 'extremely severe cyclonic storm'. It is likely to reach the Gujarat coast by Monday evening and cross the state coast between 8 pm and 11 pm, the IMD said. PTI MPB ANB ANB