The fact that the port regulator, Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB), ordered the suspension of all port activity in the state on Tuesday explains why the state government is not taking any chances in meeting the challenge posed by Cyclone Vayu.

This is unlike in the year 1998.

Cyclone Vayu is expected to make landfall near Veraval in Gir-Somnath district early on Thursday.

Steps taken

Forest department officials even managed to scare and push many Asiatic lions up above in the hills in the densely forested district to keep them safer.

It could be the noted that the only abode of the Asiatic lions in the world has seen the death of about 50 lions in a couple of years due to various reasons.

While officials at Kandla Port closed all 17 jetties and moved ships as well as vessels to safety, around 2,700 employees were also directed to shift to safer areas along with their families. Other ports like Pipavav also suspended activities.

The cyclone was declared “very severe” by Indian Meteorology Department (IMD) on Wednesday. According to The Weather Company, it is likely to be declared “extremely severe” by Wednesday evening. While the government moved swiftly to save whatever it can at the Kandla port, Adani Ports Ltd (India’s largest private port operator) also activated disaster management plans at Mundra, Tuna, Hazira and Dahej ports.

Kandla and other ports of Gujarat manage a major part of the petroleum, LNG and fertiliser imports. They also export a lot of cargo to West Asia and beyond.

Read: Gujarat: 1.6 lakh people evacuated as Cyclone Vayu inches closer

Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who reviewed the preparations on Tuesday, is keeping a close eye on his home state. Any damage to ports could severely affect the Narendra Modi government’s unfolding plans five days before the next Budget Session begins on June 17. The Union Budget will be tabled in the Lok Sabha on July 5.

Apart from the ports, Gujarat is also houses many industries, including the petroleum refineries of Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) and Essar Oil, both in Jamnagar.

Back in 1998

The Gujarat government seems to have learnt a lesson from the severe damage caused by the June 4, 1998 “super-cyclone” to Kandla port that also claimed hundreds of lives.

Some estimates suggested that around 10,000 people had been killed by the 1998 cyclone which originated near the Lakshadweep Islands and was categorised as ARB02 (03A). About 20 vessels and ships, weighing 20,000 to 40,000 tons were swept away to Satsaida island, situated off Kandla port. Thousands of animals also perished and over 1.50 lakh houses and other structures collapsed. The cyclone had caused an estimated loss of $3 billion (Rs 12,000 crore) at that time. Insurance companies lost crores of rupees.

A personal account

In 1998, I had witnessed the impact of the cyclone.

In fact, it had twisted large overhead cranes at Kandla port, which remained closed for weeks for repair and restoration of work. Gandhidham, the then headquarters of Kandla port, was a stinking ghost town without drinking water or electricity for many days.

When the storm water receded on the roads, decomposed bodies of unfortunate salt pane workers and other labourers, were seen rotting in marine waters on both sides of the roads, hanging on the trees, the electric poles, and from cables and high-tension wires. There was no drinking-water or any eatables available in Gandhidham and Kandla for a long time . Thanks to the hospitality offered by a Coast Guard official on his ship, I could get some water to drink, coffee and biscuits after battling the heat wave for hours.

The cyclone was formed on June 4, 1998 and left the region only on June 10, 1998. It had left in its wake a trail of death and destruction, by the time it had subsided.