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Cyclone Biparjoy kills 2, uproots power lines after landfall in India, churns toward Pakistan

MANDVI (AP) – Cyclone Biparjoy knocked out power and threw shipping containers into the sea on Friday in western India before aiming its lashing winds and rain at part of Pakistan that suffered devastating floods last year.

A man and his son died trying to save their livestock in Gujarat state, where the storm came ashore late on Thursday after more than 180,000 people took shelter in the two countries.

The storm made landfall a night earlier, packing windspeeds of 85 kph (53 mph), gusting up to 105 kph (86 mph) through the coastal regions of western India’s Gujarat state. Pakistani authorities were on high alert after evacuating 82,000 people.

The full extent of the damage in western India was not immediately known. In addition to the two deaths, three people were injured in nearby Devbhoomi Dwarka district, officials said. About 100,000 people 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 told The Associated Press that heavy winds had thrown some shipping containers at Mundra port, one of India’s largest ports, into the sea.

The cyclone was expected to weaken later on Friday and move towards the neighbouring Indian state of Rajasthan on its way to Pakistan. It’s projected to move into southern Pakistan, which is still recovering from deadly flooding last year.

Heavy winds and incessant rains are seen after landfall of cyclone Biparjoy at Mandvi in Kutch district of Western Indian state of Gujarat on June 16. PHOTO: AP

People in that region were seen lining up to receive food donated by charities, aid agencies and local authorities. Pakistan’s national disaster management agency said the cyclone was 125 kilometres (75 miles) south-southwest of Keti Bandar, a port in flood-hit Sindh province.

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

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

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

Wind-driven rains continued pelting southern coastal towns in Pakistan for the second day on Friday, as authorities said the cyclone had weakened in the Arabian Sea and it will reach the coastal district of Keti Bandar in Sindh province on Friday evening. The cyclone is expected to cause flash floods in southern Pakistan.

Pakistan’s Sindh province witnessed 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 on Thursday 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 clean drinking water to displaced people. Pakistani 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,” UNICEF’s regional director for South Asia Noala Skinner said.

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