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Thursday, 24 May, 2001, 11:20 GMT 12:20 UK
Gujarat braces for cyclone
Dark clouds over Bombay, India on Wednesday
Dark clouds over Bombay, as India enters cyclone alert
A cyclone off the west coast of India is threatening to hit Gujarat on Friday, just four months after the state was devastated by an earthquake.

The storm is currently brewing in the Arabian Sea about 550 km (345 miles) south of the port town of Veraval and moving northward, according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD).

It says the cyclone will hit the south Gujarat coast between Surat and Veraval by Friday evening, bringing winds of up to 160 km/h.

Forecasters are warning of heavy rains in many places over the Konkan and Goa coast during the next 24 hours and over south Gujarat in the next 12 hours.

A US Navy weather report, however, predicted the cyclone was unlikely to make landfall, and plotted a northwesterly trajectory that bypassed Gujarat.

But Indian officials were not prepared to take any chances.

India's recent disasters
January 2001: Gujarat earthquake kills 30,000
October 1999: Cyclone kills more than 10,000 in Orissa
June 1998: Cyclone kills more than 1,000 in Gujarat
January's massive earthquake claimed 30,000 lives.

Authorities in Gujarat say they have ordered the evacuation of thousands of people along the coast and put the armed forces on alert in anticipation of the storm.

GC Murmu, the state's relief commissioner, said efforts had already begun to move about 10,000 workers from the vast salt fields on the Saurashtra coast.

Officials in Gujarat's Kutch district said quake victims living in tents and temporary houses had been advised to move to safer buildings.

Thousands of people have been living in tents and tin-roof shelters in the region since the quake left them homeless.

Satellite image of the cyclone approaching at left
Heavy rains and strong winds are expected
"We are taking no chance though Kutch is about 300 km away from the southern coast, and have advised people living in tents to move to nearby safer buildings," one official said.

South Asia is prone to natural disasters such as cyclones.

A cyclone in eastern Orissa state in October 1999 killed more than 10,000 people. Nearly 1.6 million homes were damaged or destroyed and nearly a million cattle perished.

Another cyclone hit Gujarat in 1998, levelling shanty towns and claiming more than 1,000 lives.

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See also:

27 Jan 01 | South Asia
India struggles to cope
01 Feb 01 | South Asia
In pictures: Aid operation in Gujarat
10 Aug 00 | South Asia
Analysis: India's wet spots
07 Aug 00 | Sci/Tech
The dangers of climate change
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