Cyclone Biparjoy: At least two people dead as storm hits India

At least two people have been killed and 22 injured after Cyclone Biparjoy made landfall in western India near the Pakistan border.

The storm weakened after hitting the Gujarat state coast on Thursday night, but is still moving across the state bringing strong winds and rains.

It has uprooted trees, ripped out electricity poles, and damaged roads in some districts.

The full extent of the damage is still yet known, say authorities.

Pakistan’s Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman said the country was largely spared the full force of the cyclone.

Coastal areas of the Sindh province were inundated because of high sea levels “but most people had been evacuated to safe ground,” she said.

In India, the Press Trust of India reported two cattle farmers in Gujarat’s Bhavnagar city- a father and son – were swept away as they entered a flooded ravine to save their goats.

Not a single life was lost after the cyclone’s landfall on Thursday night, the country’s national disaster management agency chief said.

More than 170,000 people in the two countries had been evacuated from the coastal regions before the arrival of the cyclone.

Makeshift shelters were also set up in school auditoriums and other government buildings in both countries.

Cyclone Biparjoy, which means “disaster” in Bengali, first hit India’s port city of Jakhau in Gujarat on Thursday packing winds up to 125 km/h (78mph).

The India Meteorological Department has since reduced the classification of the storm from “very severe” to “severe”.

Authorities had, however, been unable to start rescue operations due to heavy rains and strong winds in Gujarat’s Mandvi district, the district chief told the BBC.

India’s weather office said heavy rainfall is expected to continue in the neighbouring Rajasthan state till Saturday as the cyclone moves northwest.

Gujarat officials said around 99 train services would remain cancelled as the storm barrels across the state.

Cyclone Biparjoy was classified as a category one storm, the least severe on a scale of one to five, but forecasters had said it could be the area’s worst storm in 25 years.

Cyclones, also known as hurricanes in the North Atlantic and typhoons in the north-west Pacific, are a regular and deadly phenomenon in the Indian Ocean. Rising surface temperatures across the Arabian Sea in recent years due to climate change have made the surrounding regions even more vulnerable to devastating storms.

At least 33 deaths were reported in Pakistan last week due to heavy rains, while seven deaths were reported in India this week amid downpours.

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