India

Weakened cyclone nears India's coast

Written by Stephanie Kriner Staff Writer, DisasterRelief.org, with news reports
Thousands of people were evacuated Monday (May 28) as a cyclone headed for Pakistan and western India. The storm was originally expected to hit on Saturday (May 26), but instead, it remained in the Arabian Sea, where it lost some of its strength.

Meteorologists said the cyclone - a term used for a hurricane or typhoon that forms in the Indian Ocean - would arrive ashore by noon on Tuesday near the Indian town of Dwarka in Gujarat state, about 235 miles southwest of the state capital of Ahmedabad.

Although the storm had slowed from its once powerful 130-mph winds, officials warned it still could cause damage. Winds could reach 50 mph, strong enough to topple small trees and demolish mud houses and shelters that might be too flimsy to withstand a cyclone, officials told the Associated Press.

In preparation for the coming storm, last week the Indian government evacuated 118,000 people from the threatened area, including nearly 15,000 salt mine workers from the western coast of the state. The government also deployed 20,000 relief workers along the coast and alerted the armed forces to prepare. Compounding fears of devastation, authorities said that thousands of people are especially vulnerable in Gujarat, the epicenter of a 7.7-magnitude earthquake on Jan. 26 that killed at least 20,000 people and damaged nearly 1 million homes.

Alerts were posted last week at more than 20 ports in Gujarat, including India's biggest, Kandla, where an evacuation order has been issued. "People living in the coastal areas have been told to stay in their homes, stock up on food and avoid dilapidated structures," Girish Murmu, state relief commissioner, told the Associated Press.

Quake victims living in flimsy shelters have been advised to move to safer buildings. Hospitals in Surat have set up trauma wards for potential disaster victims. Surat officials also have stocked up on water and food supplies, Deputy Municipal Commissioner Ashin Mehta told the Associated Press.

After making landfall in India, officials said the cyclone was expected to move toward the coast of southern Pakistan in Sindh province. "The center of the cyclone may cross land near the Pakistan-India coastal border around noon May 29," Qamaruzaman Chaudhry, director-general of the Pakistan Meteorological Department, told the Associated Press. People in low-lying areas have been advised to move to higher ground.

South Asia is prone to natural disasters. A severe cyclone that hit Gujarat in 1998 triggered tidal waves and winds up to 75 mph, flattening shantytowns and leaving more than 1,000 people dead.

In eastern Orissa state in October 1999, another cyclone killed more than 10,000 people and damaged nearly 1.6 million homes.

"The American Red Cross is monitoring the current storm so that we'll be ready to respond should our assistance become necessary. However we hope that another disaster will not strike this region. Gujarat earthquake survivors are just beginning to rebuild their lives," said Barbara Wetsig of the American Red Cross international services department. The American Red Cross is running several programs to help Gujarat recover from the earthquake.

DisasterRelief.org is a unique partnership between the American Red Cross, IBM and CNN dedicated to providing information about disasters and their relief operations worldwide. The three-year-old website is a leading disaster news source and also serves as a conduit for those wishing to donate to disaster relief operations around the globe through the international Red Cross movement.

American Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. To help the victims of disaster, you may make a secure online credit card donation or call 1-800-HELP NOW (1-800-435-7669) or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Or you may send your donation to your local Red Cross or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013.

The American Red Cross is dedicated to helping make families and communities safer at home and around the world. The Red Cross is a volunteer-led humanitarian organization that annually provides almost half the nation's blood supply, trains nearly 12 million people in vital life-saving skills, mobilizes relief to victims in more than 60,000 disasters nationwide, provides direct health services to 2.5 million people, assists international disaster and conflict victims in more than 20 countries, and transmits more than 1.4 million emergency messages to members of the Armed Forces and their families. If you would like information on Red Cross services and programs please contact your local Red Cross.

=A9 Copyright 2001, The American National Red Cross. All Rights Reserved.

Disclaimer

DisasterRelief
DisasterRelief.org is a unique partnership between the American Red Cross, IBM and CNN dedicated to providing information about disasters and their relief operations worldwide. The three-year-old website is a leading disaster news source and also serves as a conduit for those wishing to donate to disaster relief operations around the globe through the international Red Cross movement. American Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. To help the victims of disaster, you may make a secure online credit card donation or call 1-800-HELP NOW (1-800-435-7669) or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Or you may send your donation to your local Red Cross or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013. The American Red Cross is dedicated to helping make families and communities safer at home and around the world. The Red Cross is a volunteer-led humanitarian organization that annually provides almost half the nation's blood supply, trains nearly 12 million people in vital life-saving skills, mobilizes relief to victims in more than 60,000 disasters nationwide, provides direct health services to 2.5 million people, assists international disaster and conflict victims in more than 20 countries, and transmits more than 1.4 million emergency messages to members of the Armed Forces and their families. If you would like information on Red Cross services and programs please contact your local Red Cross. © Copyright, The American National Red Cross. All Rights Reserved.