India to evacuate 300,000 from cyclone

Ahmedabad (India) (AFP) –


Almost 300,000 people are set to be evacuated in the western Indian state of Gujarat out of the path of a severe cyclonic storm due in two days, authorities said Tuesday.

"The weather department's latest bulletin forecasts that cyclone Vayu will make landfall... early in the morning on June 13," senior state official JN Singh told reporters.

"We have identified 2.91 lakh (291,000) people living in low-lying areas of 10 coastal districts who will be evacuated by Wednesday afternoon," Singh said after an emergency meeting.

"All schools and colleges in the coastal districts of Saurashtra and Kutch would remain close on June 12 and June 13 as a precautionary measure," he said.

He added that 67 shelter homes have been set up to accommodate the displaced people.

Vayu, currently a cyclonic storm in the Arabian Sea, is set to intensify and make landfall in Gujarat on Thursday packing winds gusting up to 135 kilometres (85 miles) per hour and heavy rains, forecasters say.

It is likely to damage thatched houses, blow away rooftops and metal sheets, disrupt power and communication lines and cause major damage to roads and crops, the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) said.

The weather system, currently barrelling northwestwards parallel to the Indian coast, was also expected to draw moisture away from India's much-needed annual monsoon rains.

The monsoon hit the southwestern state of Kerala last week but was several days late.

Almost half of India -- including more than 500 million people -- is facing drought-like conditions because of deficient pre-monsoon rainfall, according to IMD.

The summer has been particularly harsh with temperatures rising above 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit) in the northern state of Rajasthan.