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Cyclone Vayu threatens India and Pakistan

Cyclone Vayu threatens India and Pakistan
Cyclone Vayu is strengthening in the Arabian Sea and heading towards western India [Al Jazeera]

Cyclone Vayu has formed in the Arabian Sea and is expected to impact the western Indian state of Gujarat.

The storm that began to show signs of developing this past weekend has strengthened with current wind speeds of 102 kilometres per hour, gusting to 130 km/h, making it equivalent to a tropical storm.

Currently Vayu is 480km southwest of Mumbai and moving to the north.

The warm waters of the Arabian Sea, which are currently averaging 30 degrees Celsius, will continue to allow Vayu to gradually strengthen before making possible landfall. Winds could strengthen to as high as 165 km/h with stronger gusts, potentially making the cyclone the equivalent strength of a Category 2 hurricane.

There is still some question on where and when Vayu could make landfall. If the storm continues on its northerly route, then the southwestern coast of Gujarat could see landfall as soon as Wednesday evening.

But if the storm begins to track a little more to the west, then it may actually stay just off the coast of western Gujarat and continue to head towards southwestern Pakistan later in the week.

In either scenario, there are storm risks that will affect coastal India. Seas will continue to build in the eastern Arabian Sea making it increasingly dangerous for fishermen. Dangerous riptides along coastal areas will be a factor from Kerala to Gujarat through the week.

The India Meteorological Department is forecasting a 1 to 1.5-metre storm surge, on top of normal astrological tides, for coastal Maharashtra and Gujarat states.

Most of the heavy rain will remain off shore, but as the storm nears Gujarat, rain showers are likely to come onshore across the Kathiawar peninsula, a relatively mountainous area where flash flooding and mudslides could occur.

Gujarat is not immune to tropical cyclones, but a direct landfall of this strength or greater has not happened since 1998.

In June of that year, a cyclone with winds of 195 km/h came ashore with a storm surge of 4.9 metres and was responsible for more than 10,000 deaths because of severe flooding. Many of those killed were salt mine workers who did not own radios and were unaware of the approaching storm.

One unusual knock-on effect from the approaching storm will be the increasing temperatures for southeastern Pakistan.

The counter-clockwise circulation will mean an easterly flow over the region, allowing much hotter and drier air to move over the area. Temperatures for Karachi could reach as high as 40C in coming days, 11 degrees above its normal average.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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Jahangir

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