Cyclone Vayu poised to hit India as year's 2nd major storm

NEW DELHI (AP) — Indian authorities were bracing Wednesday for a severe cyclone gathering strength in the Arabian Sea that was expected to make landfall in the western state of Gujarat as India's second major storm of the season.

Cyclone Vayu, named after the Hindi word for wind, was poised to hit the Gujarat coast early Thursday. Winds gusting up to 170 kilometers (106 miles) per hour were forecast and a storm surge up to 2 meters (6.5 feet) above astronomical tides, which would inundate low-lying areas, according to the India Meteorological Department.

After India's home minister, Amit Shah, held a meeting Tuesday with government and military officials, air force planes carried 39 National Disaster Response Force teams to the western coast. By midday they had begun evacuating more than a quarter of a million people living in towns and villages likely to bear the brunt of the storm.

By contrast more than a million people were evacuated ahead of Cyclone Fani, which hit India's eastern coast on the Bay of Bengal in May, killing 34 people in India and 15 in neighboring Bangladesh.

Authorities in the eastern state of Odisha, where Fani made landfall, were praised for precautionary measures that likely prevented a much higher death toll.

In India's financial capital of Mumbai, police tweeted that because of the high winds, heavy rainfall and lightning expected from Vayu, people "should not venture into sea and should keep safe distance from shoreline."

Gujarat's chief minister, Vijay Rupani, requested on social media that tourists leave coastal areas by Wednesday afternoon.

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