India has evacuated hundreds of thousands of people to shelters along the coast of the western state of Gujarat in the face of a powerful cyclone that is gaining intensity in the Arabian Sea and is expected to make landfall this Thursday.

Meteorological authorities have indicated that cyclone ‘Vayu’, with winds equivalent to those of a category 1 hurricane, will cross the coast with sustained winds of between 145 and 155 kilometres per hour and could reach gusts of up to 170 kilometres per hour.

The state government has reported that it has already begun moving some 300,000 people from the most vulnerable areas to shelters. “We started evacuation in coastal districts this morning,” a Gujarat disaster manager official said Wednesday.

Chief State Minister Vijay Rupani has asked the Indian Army and its National Disaster Response Force to help with rescue and assistance if the cyclone causes widespread damage and disruption.

Federal Minister of Home Affairs Amit Shah has also urged the authorities to ensure the rapid restoration of electricity, telecommunications and drinking water if disrupted by the cyclone.

Last May, cyclone ‘Fani’ – equivalent to a category 4 hurricane – killed at least 34 people on India’s east coast, destroying homes and tearing up roofs.

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