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Thousands leave relief camps in India as Cyclone Bipachoy weakens | News

Power has been restored to many villages, but hundreds are still without power, officials said.

More than 100,000 people who had sheltered from Cyclone Bipajoy in relief camps in western India had begun returning home after the storm weakened, authorities said.

The coastal village of Jakhau, where the cyclone made landfall in India’s Gujarat state on Saturday, had more than 130 people evacuated from government-run shelters to their homes by noon Saturday.

While power has been restored in many areas, about 1,500 villages remain without power, officials said. After the cyclone made landfall, it uprooted trees and utility poles from hundreds of villages in coastal Gujarat.

“It’s very dire and we expect huge damage,” said Ahmad, a businessman who rents out boats to fishermen in Jakhau and uses only one name.

People wait to board a bus during evacuation ahead of Cyclone Biparjoy in Jakhau, Gujarat state, western India, June 14, 2023.
People wait to board a bus during evacuations ahead of Cyclone Bipachoi’s arrival in Jakau, in the western Indian state of Gujarat [Francis Mascarenhas/Reuters]

“But thankfully, nature’s wrath has been milder than we expected.”

He said there was no major damage to the village other than uprooted trees and power poles and some houses suffered minor damage.

“Our teams are working on the ground to restore power supply and drinking water supply. Rehabilitation of damaged roads and other physical infrastructure is also being prioritized,” Gujarat Revenue Minister Kamal Dayani said.

The storm had winds of 85 km/h (53 mph) and gusts of up to 105 km/h (65 mph) along the coast of Gujarat.

The India Meteorological Department said earlier on Saturday that the cyclone had weakened into a deep depression and was expected to weaken further in the next 12 hours.

The full extent of the damage in Gujarat is not yet known.

India’s federal home minister, Amit Shah, visited Jakhau on Saturday to monitor the situation in the village and thank aid agencies for their “excellent” work.

“Rescue and reconstruction efforts are being carried out under operational readiness to minimize hardship for the people,” he tweeted.

At the press conference, the home minister added that since Biparjoy made landfall in Gujarat, no one has lost his life due to Biparjoy.

Hours before the hurricane made landfall, two shepherds reportedly died while trying to prevent their cattle from being swept away by heavy rain and flooding. Twenty-three people were injured in different areas, officials said.

Early warning, accurate identification of vulnerable areas and timely evacuation helped India avoid heavy casualties.

Authorities in India and neighboring Pakistan evacuated more than 180,000 people from vulnerable areas as the storm approached.

The frequency, duration and intensity of Arabian Sea hurricanes increased significantly between 1982 and 2019, according to a 2021 study. Experts say this trend is set to continue, making preparations for natural disasters even more urgent.

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