Cyclone Biparjoy to hit India and Pakistan with wind and flash flooding

Western India and southern Pakistan, which were the site of fatal floods last year, are now preparing for another deluge as Cyclone Biparjoy intensifies and heads towards landfall on Thursday.

The Arabian Sea region, where many experienced dusty storms, is expected to experience worsening conditions once the cyclone makes landfall in Gujarat, India. Rescue and evacuation efforts are also being hampered due to the unfavorable weather conditions.

Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, who is the Chief of the India Meteorological Department, informed The Associated Press that the landfall process will begin at 6 p.m. local time and continue until midnight.

The governments in both South Asian nations have been on high alert as a result of the cyclone’s approach. The cyclone is expected to make landfall near Jakhau port in India’s Kutch district and flood the region.

Keti Bandar in Pakistan’s flood-ravaged southern Sindh province is also in Biparjoy’s path.

Mandvi, India is typically a bustling coastal town known for its boat-makers, bazaars, and beaches. However, under the orders of the government, the town came to a standstill on Thursday.

Strong winds and rains uprooted several trees in the area. According to local media, a pregnant woman was brought in from Shiyalbet Island in the Amreli district and admitted to a hospital.

Meanwhile, displaced families in southern Pakistan, visibly shocked because of the dust storms and rain, could be seen in relief camps, among them was an 82-year-old named Bachai Bibi, who had been evacuated from the Badin district in Sindh province and reportedly became homeless as a result of the cyclone.

Mohammad Ashraf, a 35-year-old resident, stated that he, his wife, and their three children were aided by local officials in fleeing the Pakistani village of Sheikh in the region impacted by the storm. They were taken to a relief center.

The World Health Organization is providing assistance to Pakistan in its efforts to plan and react to the public health consequences of the cyclone, which was predicted to strike parts of southern Pakistan on Thursday.

Pakistan, along with local aid organizations, is providing free food and clean drinking water to those who have been displaced due to various reasons.

As per recent reports, thousands of people in India have been evacuated, taking the total number of people shifted to relief camps to 75,000. Similarly, in Pakistan, the National Disaster Management Authority has provided shelter and food to 73,000 evacuated people.

The cyclone, with sustained winds of up to 120 kph, is projected to hit Pakistan’s Sindh province, which saw one of the deadliest floods last summer, leaving 1,739 people dead and 33 million displaced. However, the storm has lost some of its intensity, and authorities expect a maximum sustained wind speed of 115 kph to 125 kph, with gusts reaching up to 140 kph.

The Indian Meteorological Department said the cyclone was bearing down on Jakhau port, where it is likely to make landfall on Thursday evening.

Like southern Pakistan, large parts of coastal Gujarat have also been experiencing heavy rainfall and strong winds. Indian authorities warned that the cyclone, classified as a “very severe cyclonic storm,” has the potential to inflict heavy damage once it makes landfall.

A storm surge of two-to-three meters (two-to-three yards) above the astronomical tide is likely to inundate low-lying areas in the storm’s path. The tides could rise as high as six meters (more than six yards) in some places, the IMD has said.

“Elaborate arrangements have been made by us for post-cyclone work like restoration of electricity infrastructure, mobile networks and other infrastructure,” Gujarat Health Minister Rushikesh Patel told the Press Trust of India news agency.

According to a government release, major religious sites such as the Dwarkadhish temple and Somnath temple in coastal Gujarat will remain closed on Thursday due to the cyclone. Indian railways have canceled 76 trains as a precautionary measure.

The Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority has engaged six ham radio teams in coastal districts as mobile networks are likely to be disrupted during the cyclone.

Ham radios are useful as they do not require mobile towers, electricity, or the internet to make calls, making them essential during emergencies. They proved to be invaluable during last year’s Cyclone Tauktae when large portions of coastal Gujarat were without electricity for six days.

On Thursday, Pakistani Prime Minister, Shahbaz Sharif, was in Azerbaijan on an official visit. He tweeted the day before, assuring that the government had taken all measures to ensure the safety of those at risk due to rains and strong winds in the southern Sindh province.

Pakistani Climate Minister, Sherry Rehman, advised against panic and affirmed that Karachi, the country’s most extensive city, housing 20 million people, was safe as the cyclone was not expected to make landfall there, as feared earlier.

However, people were seen moving to safer places in vehicles despite government warnings, according to a reporter for The Associated Press. So far, Pakistan has not issued any appeal for assistance from the United Nations, which said it was monitoring the situation. Local charities and aid agencies on both sides were helping displaced people.

Experts suggest that climate change is behind the increased frequency of cyclones in the Arabian Sea region, which adds urgency to preparations for natural disasters.

Pakistan is among the top ten countries most affected by climate change, despite contributing less than 1% to global greenhouse gas emissions. A 2021 study showed a significant increase in the frequency, duration, and intensity of cyclones in the Arabian Sea from 1982 to 2019.

Past incidents of cyclones that hit Gujarat and Sindh provinces caused significant damage and loss of life, with a 1998 cyclone in Gujarat claiming over 1,000 lives, and a 1965 cyclone in Sindh killing over 10,000 people in Karachi.