India and Pakistan Brace as Powerful Cyclone Comes Ashore

Cyclone Biparjoy has made landfall near the Indian-Pakistani border after a disruptive transit across the Arabian Sea. The large and dangerous storm peaked at 90 knots while it was about 150 nautical miles offshore, and it arrived in India and Pakistan with winds of about 60 knots. 

About 180,000 people in coastal areas were evacuated as a precautionary measure in advance of Biparjoy (“disaster” in Bengali). Coastal flooding may be a particular concern, and a storm surge of up to 10 feet (rising to 20 feet in the most vulnerable sites) was part of the forecast. At least seven deaths were reported in connection with heavy rains in advance of the storm’s landfall, and 22 injuries have been reported since it first came ashore in the fishing port of Jakhau. 

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Vessels were rerouted out of the storm’s path, and 50 crewmembers were evacuated from a jackup drill rig located in harm’s way. The rig Key Singapore was operating at a site off Dwarka and was exposed to the risk of extreme winds. On June 12, an Indian Coast Guard aircrew flew out to the scene multiple times to evacuate all personnel, braving repeated landings in severe conditions. 

Efforts were made to keep commercial vessels and fishermen out of harm’s way. Artisanal fishing boats are particularly vulnerable to Indian Ocean cyclones, not only because of their limited seaworthiness, but because they often lack means of communication to receive warnings. In advance of dangerous cyclones, the Indian Coast Guard dispatches patrol aircraft and cutters to broadcast storm warnings by radio and by loudspeaker – a lesson-learned from the loss of dozens of fishermen during Cyclone Ockhi in 2017.

The storm adds to existing disruption from disaster in Pakistan’s Sindh province, which suffered from severe flooding last year. The previous flood killed more than 1,700 people and forced more than 30 million from their homes. “Cyclone Biparjoy threatens a new crisis for children and families in Sindh, the province worst affected by last year’s devastating floods,” said UNICEF regional director Noala Skinner, speaking to the AP. 


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