Natural Disasters

DTE Ground Report: Gujarat’s coast from Kutch to Bhavnagar gears up to withstand Biporjoy landfall

Low-lying areas have been evacuated; commercial and naval establishments are on standby as Biporjoy nears

By Himanshu Bhayani
Published: Tuesday 13 June 2023
People being evacuated from the fishing colony at Rupen Bandar in Dwarka. Photo: Himanshu Bhayani

The Kutch and Saurashtra regions of Gujarat are bracing for June 15, 2023, when Very Severe Cyclone Biporjoy is expected to make landfall between Karachi in Pakistan and Jakhau in Kutch.

The districts of Kutch, Amreli, Gir-Somnath, Junagadh, Porbandar, Devbhumi Dwarka and Bhavnagar could be severely affected when Biporjoy makes landfall at noon on June 15.

In the run-up to the landfall, several weather monitoring agencies recorded heavy oceanic currents along with huge waves during high tide on the coastline of Saurashtra and Kutch on May 12, 2023.

Gusty winds and mild to medium rainfall occurred in the state’s Kutch, Devbhumi Dwarka, Porbandar, Jamnagar, Junagadh, Amreli and Bhavnagar districts.

This reporter spoke to people along the entire coast from Bhavnagar to Kutch to get a sense of the preparations.

“Bhavnagar is not much affected, except gusty winds. No showers, no casualties yet,” said Mahebub Qureshi, who tracks shipping sector activities at the Alang shipyard in Bhavnagar district.

The Alang-Sosiya shipyard, known for ship-breaking, has almost been evacuated. The maritime signal at the shipyard has progressed to LC3, which indicates that a port is threatened by local bad weather like squally winds, as well cyclone at sea, likely to affect the port later.

The district administration is on alert and has taken all necessary precautions to evacuate low-lying areas surrounding the shipyard, especially labour establishments.

Residents in Amreli district have not yet overcome haunting memories of the May 2019 Cyclone Tauktae, which made landfall in the district.

“Tauktae, which had made landfall in Saurashtra with a wind speed of 200 kilometres per hour, uprooted trees. Amreli residents are yet to erase the nightmarish memories,” said Mahendra Bagda, a resident of Savarkundla town in the district.

Most Amreli residents have removed the solar panels installed under an incentivised state government scheme for rooftop solar power generation.

“We had to bear huge losses during Tauktae as the solar panels had been uprooted. This time, we have taken precautions,” said Bhavna Mehta, a teacher from Amreli.

Amreli houses a major private sector port at Pipavav. The company running it, Gujarat Pipavav Port Ltd (APM Terminals Pipavav), had reported a ‘force majeure’ event on May 29 following power supply disruption due to storms on Saurashtra’s southern coast, which had also hampered port operations.

“Port activities have almost come to a stand-still due to Biporjoy,” senior port official said. 

The Gir-Somnath district, known for the Somnath temple and Sasan Gir Wildlife Sanctuary, has requested tourists to avoid visiting the area till June 15.

“People residing in low-lying areas have been taken to shelter homes. Huge waves have been recorded and reported at Chorwad, Mangrol and Madhupur Ghed. Residents have also been asked to stay away from the seashore for few days. Police is keeping a round-the-clock vigil at the seashore,” Bhargavi Joshi, a Junagadh resident told this reporter.

Fishers at the harbour of Veraval in the district have been asked not to venture out to sea till further instructions. Sailors from Mangrol have also anchored their trawlers and have agreed to not venture out.

Porbandar district is a hub of maritime activities. It is home to the Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB)-managed, state government-owned port, defence establishments including the Indian Navy and district headquarters of the Indian Coast Guard.

Food being served at shelter home created at Club House in Gopalpuri, where Kandla Port officials live. Photo: Himanshu Bhayani

The area is abuzz as Biporjoy advances across the Saurashtra-Kutch coastline.

“In a recent co-ordination committee meeting held between the district administration, Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard, it was clearly mandated that if needed the Army from Jamnagar shall also be mobilised,” said Jitesh Chauhan, local resident from Porbandar.

People from low-lying areas in Porbandar have been evacuated and shifted to shelter homes.

Signal number GD10 has been displayed at Porbandar port which means ‘severe cyclone to cross over or near the port’.

“Porbandar Chowpatty (beach) has been closed for visitors. Huge waves crossed over the Chowpatty road, which was water-logged,” Chauhan said.

Devbhumi Dwarka district, a religious tourism spot, is home to the Dwarkadhish temple, Shivrajpur Beach, Nageshwar, Gopi Talav and Bet Dwarka. These have been closed for tourists.

“Ferry services connecting Okha and Bet Dwarka have been stopped. Tourists and visitors have been requested by authorities to not travel or venture via sea-route and undertake travel,” Budhabha Bhati, a local resident, told this reporter.

Shivrajpur Beach, Okha Beach, Sunset Point and Bhadkeshwar Temple in Dwarka have been closed. “The Dwarkadhish Temple remains open for tourists. But other spots have been completely shut for tourists and visitors,” said Dipesh Samani, a Dwarka resident.

The fishing colony at Rupen Bandar in Dwarka has been evacuated and those residing in low-line shore areas have been shifted to temporary shelter homes in nearby government school buildings.

The Bhadkeshwar temple, which is surrounded by the sea from all directions saw huge waves which damaged a wall near the temple.

“This is probably the first time that such huge waves have damaged the constructed structure near Bhadkeshwar temple, which was part of amenities for tourists,” said Paresh Jhakharia, Dwarka civic body member.

Along the Gulf of Kutch, Jamnagar district, which houses two major oil refineries — Nayara Energy and Reliance Industries Ltd — is gearing up too.

Nayara Energy is an Indo-Russian oil refining and marketing venture that owns and operates the refinery located at Vadinar, the second-largest in India.

Reliance Industries Ltd’s Jamnagar asset — The Jamnagar Refinery — is a crude oil refinery owned by the conglomerate in Jamnagar, the largest in the world with a current installed capacity of 1.24 million barrels.

Necessary precautionary measures at both refining units have already been installed in place as part of regular standard operating procedures, as mandated by the company, in co-ordination with the local district administration authorities.

“The refinery has not been completely shut due to Biporjoy. Port as well refining operations of offloading crude and processing continue,” a senior company official said.

Port operations at Bedi Port in Jamnagar have been suspended completely due to gusty winds.

In the early morning hours of June 12, signal number GD10 was displayed at Bedi Port which means severe cyclone to cross over or near the port. It was scaled down in the afternoon to signal number G09 which means severe cyclone to cross coast keeping port to its right.

In Kutch district, preparations are on at a feverish pace with Biporjoy expected to make landfall around Mandvi or Jakhau.

Mandvi is a traditional maritime centre of the district and hub for manufacturing dhows (traditional Arab vessels). Jakhau is a densely populated fishing harbour. The district administration is supervising evacuations of residents residing in low-lying areas of these two places.

Memories of the 1998 cyclone are still fresh among those residing at Gandhidham-Kandla. Residents from low-lying areas have been evacuated and shifted to safe shelter home establishments operational under the aegis of Pandit Deendayal Port Trust (Kandla Port Trust) at Gopalpur, the residential complex of Kandla Port officials.

Signal number G10, which means severe cyclone to cross over or near the port, is being displayed at privately-owned Mundra Port and government-owned Kandla Port.

Kutch Superintendent Karanraj Waghela personally visited the Mundra Port owned by Adani Group and took stock. Port activities have been suspended completely. The old Mundra Port and fisherfolk locality at Mundra have been evacuated.

Read more:

Subscribe to Daily Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.