Six million people could be affected by hurricane-strength Tropical Cyclone Vayu, which is barreling toward northwest India and will skirt the coastline of Gujarat beginning Thursday morning.
Almost 300,000 people are set to be evacuated to 700 shelter homes, a spokesperson for India's Home Ministry said Wednesday.
Schools and colleges in the area are closed until Friday, officials said.With winds of 170 kph, Tropical Cyclone Vayu could become the strongest cyclone to strike northwestern India in decades.
It comes a month after powerful Tropical Cyclone Fani slammed into India's northeastern coast.
Vayu passed about 300 kilometres west of Mumbai on Wednesday, moving north toward the Gujarat coastline.
The forecast calls for the storm to turn west, which could keep the centre of the storm just offshore over the next 48 hours as it moves parallel to the Saurashtra Peninsula and Kutch district of Gujarat.
But even if the storm does not make an official landfall - meaning the centre, or eye, of the storm moves onshore - at least half the storm will be over land, so the coastal region will be hit directly by rain, wind and storm surge.
India has deployed 39 National Disaster Response Force teams - each with about 45 people - to help local authorities with evacuation, search, rescue and relief operations. The army has 34 teams on standby.
Vayu formed Monday and strengthened on Tuesday into a hurricane-strength tropical cyclone in the Arabian Sea.
Powerful tropical cyclones rarely make it this far north in the Arabian Sea, and Gujarat state has not had a hurricane-strength storm make landfall in 20 years.
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