India, Pakistan deploy rescuers, plan evacuations ahead of severe cyclone

BENGALURU, India –

India and Pakistan braced for the first severe cyclone of this year that is expected to hit their coastal regions later this week, as authorities on Monday halted fishing activities, deployed rescue personnel and announced evacuation plans for people. at risk.

From the Arabian Sea, Cyclone Biparjoy headed for the Sindh province in southern Pakistan and the coast of Gujarat state in western India. It is forecast to make landfall on Thursday and could reach maximum wind speeds of up to 200 kph (124 mph), according to the Pakistan Meteorological Department.

Disaster management personnel have been deployed in densely populated regions and cities that will be in the path of the storm. The cyclone is likely to affect Karachi in Pakistan, as well as two of India’s largest ports, Mundra and Kandla, in the state of Gujarat.

Murad Ali Shah, the chief elected official of Sindh province, visited the coastal areas and asked authorities to evacuate some 80,000 people to safety.

At a meeting in Karachi, Lt. Gen. Inam Haider Malik, head of the National Disaster Management Authority, was told the cyclone was about 600 kilometers (300 miles) south of Karachi on Monday afternoon.

Sherry Rehman, Minister for Climate Change and Environmental Coordination, said all relevant departments in Sindh and Balochistan provinces have been placed on high alert. The Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority has asked airport officials to take immediate steps to ensure the safety of aircraft and cargo.

Biparjoy is the first severe cyclone to hit Pakistan since last year’s devastating floods that killed 1,739 and lost $30 billion.

India’s army, navy and coast guard were assisting in preparations in Gujarat, the state’s chief minister, Bhupendra Patel, said in a tweet. Patel said that people living in low-lying regions will be evacuated if necessary.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi met senior officials to review disaster preparedness.

Experts say climate change is causing an increase in cyclones in the Arabian Sea region, making preparations for natural disasters even more urgent.

“The oceans have already gotten warmer because of climate change,” said Raghu Murtugudde, an Earth system scientist at the University of Maryland. He said a recent study shows the Arabian Sea has warmed by almost 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.2 degrees Fahrenheit) since March this year, creating favorable conditions for severe cyclones.

A 2021 study found that the frequency, duration and intensity of cyclones in the Arabian Sea had increased significantly between 1982 and 2019, it said.

UN climate reports have also stated that the intensity of tropical cyclones would increase in warmer weather. A report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2019 found that since the 1950s, the fastest warming of the sea surface has been in the Indian Ocean.

“In the era of climate change, natural disasters such as cyclones will only increase and cannot be avoided. Better preparation and better policies, especially for the large coastal cities of South Asia such as Karachi, Mumbai, Dhaka and Colombo, become even more important now and can mean the difference between life and death,” said Abid Qaiyum Suleri, executive director of the Islamabad-based Institute for Sustainable Development Policy and a member of the Pakistan Climate Change Council.

Cyclone Tauktae in 2021 was the last severe cyclone to make landfall in the same region. That cyclone claimed 174 lives and caused more than $1.57 billion in damage.

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Ahmed reported from Islamabad, Pakistan.

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