Jeevan Shiyal, a young fisherman, sat frustrated in the lobby of Parekh and Mehta High School in the coastal town of Jafrabad in the Amreli district on the Saurashtra coast on Monday afternoon. Inside, in one of the bedrooms, his wife Shobha was sitting on a mattress stretched out on the floor, breastfeeding their six-month-old son Rohit. In addition to her sat Jeevan’s elderly mother, Devuben, holding packets of snacks and gathiya boondi.
As other kids in the room chewed the same thing, Jeevan, 24, a fisherman, worried, “That’s all we’ve been getting since last night. But I’m afraid that if Shobha eats this, she will get sick. Where should I take her during this time of Covid-19? “
Outside the school, turned into a cyclone shelter on Sunday, government and police officials were the only ones out on the streets. The important fishing port of Jafrabad has stood still, rained on all Monday and apprehensively awaiting Tauktae, the cyclone has moved to the “ very severe ” category and is expected to sweep through Saurashtra later today.
The Indian meteorological department had predicted that the cyclone would make landfall between the town of Porbandar in the district of Porbandar and Mahuva in the district of Bhavnagar, the districts of Junagadh, Gir Somnath and Amreli, located in between, having to bear the weight. Authorities have moved a total of 21,509 people to safer places in the region, either to shelters or to relatives’ homes, evacuating villages up to 7 km inland.
“About a thousand people were evacuated to Jafrabad, from the areas of Lal Batti and Samakantha facing the sea. We have evacuated even those who live in pucca houses because, as stated by the state government, we have to ensure that no life is lost due to the cyclone, ”said Charu Mori, head of the municipality of Jafrabad.
Mori admitted that the evacuation in the town, with a population of around 25,000, was not easy. “It’s hard to persuade people to move to shelters, to leave their homes and belongings behind.”
At the shelter, Jeevan protested, “The government should allow at least one male member of each family to return so that he can cook and bring food. The least they can do is allow us to buy wafers. However, all stores were also closed on Monday.
Jeevan’s older brother, Kana, said they were ordered out so quickly that he left a pot of vegetables to cook on the stove. “The police charged me to the turret, ordering me to get into a rickshaw. I wasn’t bothered by the beatings because I knew they were just trying to save us. But we want something hot to eat, we can’t just eat sweet things.
Vimal Agrawal, director of the government-funded school, said 84 people were brought to the school on Sunday evening and another 408 on Monday afternoon.
Estimating the total number of displaced people in Jafrabad taluka at 17,000, Kashyap Dabhi, Deputy Magistrate of Rajula Amreli Division, said people in the shelters had received food packages until Monday afternoon, before their numbers increase. He promised a hot meal in the evening, with the help of NGOs and businesses.
Among those who chose to weather the storm rather than move to a shelter was Uga Shiyal. Hanging in the cabin of his fishing trawler with other fishermen at Jafrabad Port, Shiyal said, “It’s not that I feel safe here. But I have to take care of my boat. An official statement said 621 fishing boats had returned to the Amreli coast and had been secured in ports.
At 6 p.m., the power supply was affected in most of Jafrabad. Paschim Gujarat Vij Company Limited, which distributes electricity in the Saurashtra and Kutch regions, said electricity supply has been cut off in 203 villages in Saurashtra.
At around 8 p.m., after the cyclone finally hit the Amreli coast, it was followed by a complete blackout except for flashing lights in hospitals and at gas pumps. Dozens of trees along the road were uprooted, leaving several trucks stranded.
On a positive note, until the latest reports arrived, there were no reports of casualties.