SNAPPED: People take photographs of a large wave caused by Cyclone Ockhi in Mumbai


MAHARASHTRA and Gujarat states on the west coast of India are on high alert as cyclone Ockhi changes paths, moving through the Arabian Sea and closer to the southern coast near Surat in Gujarat.
India’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) on Tuesday (5) asked people not to panic and advised fishermen in both eastern and western coasts not to venture out in the sea for the next three days as heavy rainfall is imminent in many areas.
The cyclone, which hit Sri Lanka and southern India last Saturday (2), has already claimed the lives of 26 people – 13 in Sri Lanka and an equal number in Kerala and Tamil Nadu states.
India’s prime minister Narendra Modi has spoken to the chief minister of Tamil Nadu, assuring him of support operations including necessary funds, according to local media.
Thousands have taken refuge in relief camps following flooding and power cuts as a result of winds of up to 130 kilometres (80 miles) per hour in the region.
The Sri Lankan disaster management centre said 77,000 people in 16 districts have been affected, with the highest number in the southern Galle district.
In Kerala, the state emergency department said nearly 3,200 people were in relief camps. “Seven people died in several incidents and 218 were rescued from the sea,” an agency official said.
Several leaders were forced to cancel their election rallies in Gujarat.
The effects of the cyclone have seen the highest recorded rainfall in Mumbai in a decade but the India Meteorological Department (IMD) predicted it to be 230 km north-eastward of the city and hence declared Mumbai as “safe”.
While officials have confirmed the cyclone to have no significant impact in Mumbai, Maharashtra’s education minister, Vinod Tawde, has authorised the closure of schools across the city as a precautionary measure.
India’s eastern coast – including major cities like Chennai and Bhubaneswar – are prone to storms that wreak immense damage between April and December.
In 1999, more than 8,000 people were killed when a cyclone battered the eastern state of Orissa.
While Cyclone Ockhi was said to be weakening, another tropical storm was brewing in the Bay of Bengal on the east coast, officials said.