Cyclone Hits India On Deadliest Day Of Pandemic At least 16 people have been killed by Cyclone Tauktae, the most powerful storm to hit India's west coast in decades. Among those evacuated to higher ground were COVID-19 patients.

Cyclone Hits India On Deadliest Day Of Pandemic

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We heard a reference there to India's struggle against the pandemic. That is not India's only calamity just now. A cyclone has struck parts of India. Cyclone is the general name for what Americans usually call a hurricane. NPR's Lauren Frayer reports from Mumbai.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Screaming).

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: A woman screams as she watches a construction crane topple over in southern Gujarat, where Cyclone Tauktae made landfall last night. It was carrying wind gusts of up to 130 miles an hour, some of the strongest on record for this region.

GP SHARMA: First storm to affect so many districts, so many states.

FRAYER: Forecaster G.P. Sharma told local media that cyclones are more common on India's east coast over the Bay of Bengal. But climate patterns are changing. This one hit several states along the west coast.

SHARMA: This will go in the history as one of the strongest storms which caused that much of the damage.

FRAYER: And relief efforts are complicated under coronavirus lockdown. India's disaster relief chief, Satya Pradhan, told local media that it's difficult to evacuate people while social distancing.

SATYA PRADHAN: So you have to evacuate in a certain way because you don't want COVID infection on your hands.

FRAYER: Yesterday, rescuers in bright orange protective suits patrolled streets with megaphones...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Shouting).

FRAYER: ...Urging hundreds of thousands of people to evacuate from low-lying areas. Among those evacuated were COVID-19 patients, shifted to hospitals farther inland.

Here in Mumbai, fierce winds sheared off part of the NPR bureau's roof. Lighter winds and rain continue. The road outside is blocked by several downed trees, but miraculously, the power is still on.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: (Shouting).

FRAYER: Hundreds of workers have been rescued from barges off Mumbai's coast, but others are still missing. Fishing boats have been grounded, vaccination centers shut. One of the biggest concerns is also maintaining electricity, not only for people's homes, but also for industrial plants generating oxygen for COVID patients. Lauren Frayer, NPR News, Mumbai.

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