Death toll rises as Very Severe Cyclonic Storm Tauktae pummels COVID-ravaged India
The first Arabian Sea cyclonic storm of 2021 formed on Friday night, local time, and AccuWeather forecasters warn it will continue to bring detrimental impacts to India, which is currently engulfed in the world’s largest COVID-19 outbreak. A tropical depression formed to the west of southern India late last week and strengthened into a cyclonic storm by 11:30 p.m., local time, on Friday. The storm was given the name Tauktae by the India Meteorological Department (IMD). By Sunday afternoon, local time, Tauktae intensified into a very severe cyclonic storm and is equivalent to a Category 2 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale used in the Atlantic and East Pacific basins. This satellite loop shows Very Severe Cyclonic Storm Tauktae off the coast of western India on Sunday morning, local time. (CIRA/RAMMB) Additional strengthening is expected from Cyclonic Storm Tauktae as it tracks along the western coast of India and toward the Kathiawar Peninsula in the state of Gujarat. The storm is expected to be equivalent to a Category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale as it makes landfall on Tuesday morning, local time. As the storm has been intensifying off the coast over the weekend, the outer rainbands have lashed the coastal areas of Kerala, Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra with heavy rainfall, gusty winds and rough seas. CLICK HERE FOR THE FREE ACCUWEATHER APP Before Tauktae was even classified as a very severe cyclonic storm, the strengthening storm dumped a “large excess” of rainfall across portions of the Indian states of Kerala and Karnataka on Saturday, according to the IMD. Some locations received as much as 150 mm (6 inches) of rain in just 24 hours. At least 10 deaths have been blamed on the cyclone across the western states of India. Four of the deaths have occurred in Karnataka, according to a report from local authorities, and two were reported in Goa by the Chief Minister Pramod Sawant. According to the Times of India, an additional two deaths occurred in Kerala. Two more deaths were reported in Maharashtra after a tree uprooted and fell on a hut on Sunday, a local news source reported. Damage to homes and businesses caused by Tauktae has been reported along the western coast of India with thousands of residents staying in relief camps. In Kerala, over 2,000 people are staying in the 71 camps that have been opened across the state, according to Asian News International. Almost 2,500 government rescue workers equipped with wireless radios, satellite phones, cutters and other tools have deployed to areas across southern and western India expected to sustain impacts from the cyclonic storm, the Associated Press reported. On Saturday, three fishermen had to be rescued by the Indian Coast Guard after their boat became marooned in the tumultuous sea off the coast of Kannur, Kerala, reported IANS. In preparation for the storm, Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai said on Saturday it will move 580 COVID-19 patients to other hospitals, ANI reported. The approaching cyclone has also forced vaccination locations to close Monday, Mumbai Mayor Kishori Padnekar said in a statement, with vaccinations expected to resume on Tuesday. Gujarat has also cancelled vaccinations on Monday and Tuesday, according to the Chief Minister Vijay Rupani. Due to the expected heavy rain, flooding, strong winds and storm surge, Tauktae will be a 3 on the AccuWeather RealImpact™ Scale for Tropical Cyclones. Tauktae will continue to unleash flooding rainfall and damaging winds across portions of western and northern India through much of the upcoming week. Depending on the track of the storm, parts of Pakistan could also feel impacts. Tauktae can bring an area of 100-200 mm (4-8 inches) of rain to these areas leading to the threat for flooding, mudslides and washed-out roads. An AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 600 mm (24 inches) is possible in the heaviest and most persistent rain bands. “Tauktae is expected to make landfall over southern Gujarat late Monday night or early Tuesday morning, local time,” said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alan Reppert. The strongest winds from Tauktae are expected across the Kathiawar Peninsula as the storm makes landfall. Wind gusts can reach as high as 160-190 km/h (100-120 mph) with an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 210 km/h (130 mph) possible. Much of southern and western Gujarat could see these impacts resulting in the loss of power and water for several days or longer. Tauktae will also continue to stir up rough surf along the coasts of western India and Pakistan as it spins over the Arabian Sea and gains additional intensity. The timing of the storm amid the COVID-19 outbreak, even if it doesn’t make a direct strike, is not good news for India. In the past month, India has reported more than 10 million new COVID-19 cases and more than 87,000 fatalities. It has pulled into the second spot globally behind the United States with a pandemic total of more than 23.7 million cases. The western state of Maharashtra has reported more than 5.2 million of those cases, which is more than any other state or province worldwide. Western Maharashtra is one area that can receive heavy rain from the cyclone. This satellite image of Cyclonic Storm Tauktae shows the eye of the storm just off the coast of western India on Sunday afternoon, local time. (CIRA/RAMMB) Amid the worsening health crisis, India has been regularly setting daily records of more than 400,000 new cases that have also turned into global records. The current world record of 414,188 daily cases was set in the country on May 6, 2021. The record high for daily deaths in the country was 4,205 on May 11. India’s death toll since the pandemic began is more than 270,000, which is third behind Brazil (more than 430,000) and the U.S. (more than 584,000), according to Johns Hopkins University. Many of the new cases have been brought on by a variant of the virus, which is said to be highly contagious. The World Health Organization recently labeled this mutation as a variant of concern and said it poses a global health risk, CNBC reported. Mass gatherings and religious festivals that drew millions of people in recent weeks have been cited as a key factor in the spread. The cyclone is forecast to track across northwestern India and bring a dose of heavy rain and gusty winds across western Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana and eastern Pakistan during the middle and end of this week. Residents should continue to monitor the situation and heed local warnings. With the ongoing COVID-19 surge, it may take extra time to prepare for the storm and make any needed precautions. AccuWeather Lead International Forecaster Jason Nicholls warns that additional tropical development in the Indian Ocean is possible through the end of May. The season for tropical activity has no bounds in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea, said Nicholls, but it does have two peaks. “The first of the two peaks in the calendar year is during the pre-monsoon period of April to June, and the second is after the monsoon, from September to December,” Nicholls explained. 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