NEW DELHI: Drawing energy from the warmer waters of the Arabian Sea and moisture from the southwest moonsoon clouds, Cyclone Vayu is steadily building up in intensity and poised to make landfall on Thursday afternoon on the Gujarat coast.
The India Meteorological Department (IMD), which has been tracking the movement of the cyclone since its formation on Monday night, has warned that it could bring winds with speeds of 155-165 kmph, gusting up to 180 kmph, to the coastal areas of south Gujarat.
At 11.30 am on Tuesday, the cyclone lay centred over east-central Arabian Sea about 280km south of Veraval in Gujarat and 360km nearly south of Porbandar in the state.
It is likely to move northwards and make landfall on the Gujarat coast between Dwarka and Veraval, as a very severe cyclonic storm around Thursday afternoon. It is then likely to move parallel to Saurashtra and the Kutch coast, affecting Amreli, Gir Somnath, Diu, Junagarh, Porbandar, Rajkot, Jamnagar, Devbhoomi Dwarka, and Kutch.
More than 300,000 people have been evacuated from the coastal areas of Gujarat and Diu.
Cyclone Vayu is much more intense than other cyclones over the Arabian Sea, mainly because it has coincided with the onset of the southwest monsoon on 8 June, which is giving it the moisture content need to build up strength. Super cyclonic storm Gonu, which made landfall in Oman and Iran in June 2007, remains the strongest cyclone to have been formed over the Arabian Sea till date.
“It is progressing very fast, but will begin to lose intensity after landfall on Thursday. It is also drawing moisture from the southwest monsoon, which has strengthened it," D.S. Pai, a senior scientist at IMD, Pune, said on Wednesday.
Tropical cyclones developing over the Indian Ocean and progressing either toward the Arabian Sea or Bay of Bengal peak twice a year, in April-May and October-November.
“The intensity depends on how long the cyclone travels over the ocean. Cyclone Vayu is not likely to become ‘extreme’ like Cyclone Fani, which caused massive destruction in Odisha," said Jayant Sarkar, director, IMD, Gujarat.
A warmer sea transfers masses of latent heat to a cyclone, allowing it to intensify. This has raised worries about the progress of the southwest monsoon as the cyclone could weaken it and delay its arrival in other parts of southern India.
A high-wave alert has been sounded for coastal areas in Maharashtra and Gujarat, with very heavy rainfall in Konkan, Goa, Saurashtra, Kutch and southern Gujarat on Thursday.
A storm surge of about 1.5-2 metre above tidal waves is likely to inundate low-lying coastal areas of Kutch, Dwarka, Porbandar, Junagarh, Diu, Gir Somnath, Amreli and Bhavnagar districts at the time of landfall, according to the IMD.
As many as 52 rescue and relief teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have been positioned in Gujarat and Diu, including 12 NDRF teams who were flown from Patna and INS Rajali to Gujarat. Coast Guard, the Navy, Army and Air Force units are also on standby.
Shaswati Das contributed to this story