19 dead, 90 missing at sea, 200,000 evacuated . . .
Cyclone Tauktae made landfall on India’s west coast on Monday night and caused widespread damage and destruction. The state of Gujarat was severely impacted by the cyclone, while it narrowly missed the heavily populated city of Mumbai. Some 200,000 people have been evacuated to shelters. At sea, a sunken barge has left 90 people reported missing off the coast of Mumbai, and more than 700 are stranded offshore on other commercial vessels. The cyclone’s severity has eased, but the storm continues to move northeastward and will likely impact Rajasthan and the western parts of Uttar Pradesh. Heavy rainfall has affected other states in India’s southwest. Tauktae is the strongest cyclone to hit India’s west coast since 1998.
India battles cyclone and COVID-19 . . .
Tauktae comes at a time when India is overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases. Indian hospitals along the coast took preventive measures, and some moved COVID-19 patients from dedicated COVID-19 centres to civic hospitals for safety. With waterlogged streets and damaged infrastructure, including electricity grids, authorities face unique challenges reaching COVID-19 impacted people and vaccinations have been halted in many coastal areas. Meanwhile, shelters housing evacuees pose a serious threat of new clusters emerging, and a second cyclone developing off the east coast in the Bay of Bengal could intensify this weekend.
Deadliest day in India’s second COVID wave . . .
While the official number of daily COVID-19 cases continues to drop in India after reaching a record high of more than 400,000 earlier this month, the country recorded its highest number of fatalities on Monday at 4,239. Observers are concerned that many COVID-19 cases are going unreported, mainly as the virus spreads to rural areas largely spared in the country’s first wave. It took bloated bodies floating down the Ganges River to bring attention to the plight in rural India. Fear of COVID-19, the stigma attached to being infected, and a lack of awareness about prevention and vaccination have led many to resort to silence. While the increasing death rate is now changing community opinions about seeking health care, the lack of public health infrastructure is a serious deterrent.