Cyclone Tauktae has made landfall in India’s western state of Gujarat with gusting wind speeds approaching 200km/h and storm surges of up to 4m.
It is the strongest cyclone to strike the region since 1998.
Late on Monday local time, India’s meteorological department announced that the “extremely severe cyclonic storm” had begun to make landfall in Gujarat.
More than 1.5 million people were evacuated in that state as the storm approached, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said during a press briefing on Monday.
Evacuees are crowded into shelters, sparking fears of possible new coronavirus clusters in coming weeks.
The federal government has also ordered the vaccine drive to be halted in several at-risk coastal towns.
Tauktae is travelling along India’s western coast, and narrowly missed the city of Mumbai, but forced the cancellation of 55 flights at the city’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport. Flights were eventually resumed after an 11-hour delay, reported UPI.
The navy has sent three warships to try to rescue over 400 people stranded off the coast of Mumbai on two barges. Thousands of fishing boats have returned to harbour, and hundreds of merchant ships have been asked to re-route.
The storm is also adding to the challenge facing India’s hospitals. Mumbai has already moved 580 Covid positive patients from dedicated centres to civic hospitals as a precaution.
Officials have advised people to stay indoors in anticipation of flooded roads, damaged power lines and uprooted trees.
Rains from the storm killed six people in Kerala, Karnataka and Goa over the weekend as the cyclone moved along the western coastline. Another six were reported killed in Maharashtra state on Monday, according to the Times of India.
Officials say another 30 people remain missing after Tauktae brushed past the tourist haven of Goa.