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More than 175,000 people evacuate as Cyclone Biparjoy makes landfall in India

People wait for their turn to receive free food distributed by volunteers outside a camp as Cyclone Biparjoy was approaching.
People wait for their turn to receive free food distributed by volunteers outside a camp as Cyclone Biparjoy was approaching. Copyright Pervez Masih/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.
Copyright Pervez Masih/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Greta Ruffino
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The Indian army has been called in to help residents flee the destruction of the worst cyclone in more than 25 years

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Cyclone Biparjoy knocked out power and threw shipping containers into the sea in western India on Friday before weakening as it headed toward Pakistan, officials said.

More than 180,000 people took shelter in the two countries, but later Friday, Pakistan's evacuees prepared to return home. Indian officials said electricity has been restored in some villages, while many others were still without power.

Still, the storm took a toll especially when it made landfall in India. A man and his son died when they tried to save their livestock in Gujarat state.

Ajit Solanki/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
Heavy winds and incessant rains are seen after landfall of cyclone Biparjoy at Mandvi in Kutch district of Western Indian state of Gujarat, Friday, June 16, 2023.Ajit Solanki/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved

The storm packed windspeeds of 85 kph and gusts of up to 105 kph through the coastal regions of western Gujarat.

The full extent of the damage in western India wasn't immediately known. In addition to the two deaths, 23 people were injured in various areas, officials said. About 100,000 people who were evacuated in western India have been temporarily relocated to relief camps, authorities said.

The storm did other damage upon landfall, including uprooting trees and electricity poles. Officials in the coastal town of Mandvi said heavy winds threw some shipping containers into the sea at Mundra Port, one of India's largest ports.

Pakistanis were especially on alert after the deadly flooding last year. Wind-driven rain pelted southern coastal towns in Pakistan for a second day Friday. The cyclone was expected to cause flash floods in the country's south.

People in that region lined up to receive food donated by charities, aid agencies and local authorities. Pakistan's national disaster management agency said the cyclone was 125 kilometres south-southwest of Keti Bandar, a port in flood-hit Sindh province.

Pakistan will decide on Saturday whether displaced people can be allowed to go back.

“The storm is expected to weaken first to a cyclonic storm and then to a depression by this evening,” a government statement said.

Shakir Din, a fisherman in the coastal town of Badin, said his family and neighbours may soon return home.

The Indian Meteorological Department said Cyclone Biporjoy set a record for the longest lifespan over the Arabian Sea, more than 10 days. Cyclone Kyarr in 2019 had a life of nine days, it said.

The Gujarat government said it deployed 184 rapid action squads to rescue wild animals and clear fallen trees in Gir National Park, home to nearly 700 Asiatic lions.

Ajit Solanki/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
A man wades through flooded street following heavy winds and incessant rains after landfall of cyclone Biparjoy at Mandvi in Kutch district of Western Indian state of Gujarat.Ajit Solanki/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved

Pakistan’s Sindh province experienced one of the country's deadliest floods last summer, partly induced by climate change. At least 1,739 people were killed and 33 million were displaced.

The World Health Organization said Thursday that it was supporting Pakistan’s efforts to deal with the impact of the cyclone. Pakistan’s government and local aid groups delivered free food and drinking water to displaced people. Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif has said his government was protecting those in the storm's path.

On Thursday, UNICEF warned that more than 625,000 children were at immediate risk in Pakistan and India.

“In Pakistan, Cyclone Biparjoy threatens a new crisis for children and families in Sindh, the province worst affected by last year’s devastating floods,” said Noala Skinner, UNICEF’s regional director for South Asia.

A 2021 study found that the frequency, duration and intensity of cyclones in the Arabian Sea increased significantly between 1982 and 2019, and experts say the increase will continue, making preparations for natural disasters more urgent.

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