Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 June 2019

Cyclone Vayu veers away from India's west coast

Powerful storm prompted hundreds of thousands to be moved from Gujarat coastal areas

A powerful cyclone heading for India's west coast changed course before it could hit land on Thursday.

India's meteorological department said Cyclone Vayu might just scrape by the western state of Gujarat instead of hitting it head on in the afternoon before returning to the Arabian Sea.

However, winds up to 180 kilometres per hour – equivalent to a category 1 hurricane – and rough sea conditions could last up to 12 hours in the cyclone's wake as it moves west toward Pakistan.

In the fishing hub of Veraval, where Vayu was expected to make landfall, heavy wind and rain battered the beaches and fishing boats were smashed by huge waves crashing on to the shore.

The Gujarat state government began moving about 300,000 people to shelters as the storm approached on Wednesday. Gujarat is also home to large refineries and ports that were in expected to be in Vayu's path.

In Pakistan, the meteorological department issued an alert on Thursday to warn fishermen against putting out to sea this week because of rough conditions caused by the storm.

The cyclone was not expected to directly affect the port city of Karachi, but the department said the weather system could cause dust storms and rain in various parts of the southern Sindh province.

It said a heatwave was likely to hit Karachi on Thursday and Friday because the cyclone could stifle sea breeze, with temperatures rising to 42°C.

The meteorological department also asked authorities to remain alert throughout Saturday, although the Cyclone Vayu was far away from the country's coastal areas.

Vayu, named after the Hindi word for wind, would have been the second major storm to make landfall in India this year after Cylcone Fani hit the eastern state of Odisha in early May with wind speeds of up to 200kph. Fani killed at least 34 people and destroyed or damaged more than half a million homes in the state. Odisha officials estimate the cyclone caused losses of more than $1.3 billion (Dh4.8bn).

Indian meteorological officials said Vayu could slow the northward advance of the annual monsoon rains as much of the country swelters under a heatwave.

Updated: June 13, 2019 02:23 PM

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