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As the cyclone weakens, thousands of people leave relief camps in India

Officials said electricity has been restored to many villages but hundreds more are still without power.

More than 100,000 people who took refuge in relief camps in western India from Cyclone Biparjaya have started returning home after the storm weakened, authorities said.

In the coastal village of Jakhau, where the cyclone hit the Indian state of Gujarat on Thursday, more than 130 people had returned to their homes from government-run shelters by midday on Saturday.

Officials said that while power has been restored in many areas, about 1,500 villages are still without power. After making landfall, the cyclone uprooted trees and power poles in hundreds of villages in coastal Gujarat.

“It was very scary and we expected huge losses,” said Amad, a businessman who rents boats to fishermen in Zakhau and used only one name.

People wait to board a bus ahead of the arrival of Cyclone Biparjoy in Jakhau, India's western Gujarat state, June 14, 2023.
People wait to board a bus during an evacuation ahead of the arrival of Cyclone Biprajay in Jakhau, India’s western state of Gujarat. [Francis Mascarenhas/Reuters]

“But thankfully nature’s wrath was somewhat milder than we expected.”

He said that there was no major damage in the village except uprooted trees, electricity poles and minor damage to some houses.

“Our teams are working in the field to restore power supply and drinking water supply. Repair of damaged roads and other physical infrastructure is also being done on priority,” said Gujarat Revenue Secretary Kamal Dayani.

The storm had sustained winds of 85kph (53mph) and gusts of up to 105kph (65mph) in coastal Gujarat.

The India Meteorological Department said early Saturday that the cyclone has weakened into a deep depression and is expected to weaken further in the next 12 hours.

The full extent of damage in Gujarat was not immediately known.

India’s federal home minister Amit Shah visited Jakhau on Saturday to monitor the situation in the village and thanked relief agencies for doing a “fantastic” job.

“War-based relief and rehabilitation efforts are underway to ease the suffering faced by the people,” he posted on Twitter.

During a press conference, the home minister added that Biparjaya has not lost a single life since the landslides in Gujarat.

Hours before the cyclone hit, two shepherds were reported dead while trying to prevent their cattle from being washed away during heavy rains and floods. Officials said 23 people were injured in different areas.

Early warning, proper identification of risk areas and timely evacuation have helped India avoid major casualties.

Authorities in India and neighboring Pakistan have evacuated more than 180,000 people from vulnerable areas as the storm approaches.

According to a 2021 study, the frequency, duration and intensity of cyclones in the Arabian Sea increased significantly between 1982 and 2019. Experts say that trend will continue, making preparation for natural disasters even more urgent.

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