(BBC) – India’s western state of Gujarat is braced for the landfall of a severe cyclone, Tauktae, likely to be the strongest to hit the region since 1998.
The storm has roared up India’s western coast over the past two days, with six people killed and thousands evacuated.
Efforts are currently underway to rescue more than 400 people stranded off the coast in two commercial barges.
The cyclone comes amid a devastating second Covid-19 wave that has overwhelmed India’s healthcare system.
The meteorological department said the storm had now intensified into an “extremely severe cyclonic storm”. It is expected to make landfall in Gujarat on Monday night with wind speeds of up to 160km/h (99mph).
Both Gujarat and its neighbouring state, Maharashtra, are on high alert, with heavy rains also forecast.
Although Covid cases are declining in both states, the devastating effects of the nation’s second wave are still being felt.
The Indian navy has said it has begun rescue operations to save the people on both of the barges, which are off the coast of Mumbai, the capital of Maharashtra.
It said it was responding to two separate requests for help – one from a barge that was adrift near an oil field about 170km from the coast, and a second from another vessel about 14km from the coast.
Three naval ships have been dispatched to help, a statement from the Indian navy said.