The Indian Railways on Monday said its emergency response teams and vehicles are on high alert in view of Cyclone Tauktae intensifying into an "extremely severe cyclonic storm". The cyclonic storm over the Arabian Sea led to very strong winds blowing at a speed of 114 kmph in Mumbai Monday afternoon, civic officials said.
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) said Cyclone Tauktae has now intensified into an "extremely severe cyclonic storm", and is likely to reach Gujarat coast by Monday evening and cross the state coast between 8 pm and 11 pm.
The Ministry of Railways, in a press statement, said the zonal and divisional control rooms are monitoring the situation and are constantly in touch with all railway stations in Southern Railway, South Western Railway, Konkan Railway, Central Railway and Western Railway. Railway divisions and zones are also in constant touch with state governments to monitor and plan for any contingency, it said.
All emergency responses of the Railways like Accident Relief Trains (ART), Medical Relief Vans (MRV) and Tower Wagons are put on high alert and readiness for quick turnout in case of any contingency. Reserves of stone dust, boulders, among others, are kept ready for attending to any breaches. Special intensive patrolling of vulnerable sections as done in monsoon season is being carried out. Wind speeds are being monitored constantly in vulnerable sections and speed restrictions of train movement being imposed as per instructions, the statement said. The national transporter has also temporarily cancelled or pre-terminated certain long distance and short distance passenger trains keeping in view the evolving weather conditions. A disaster management cell has also been opened from 1600 hours of May 14, it said.
Railway lines serving Goa port, VSG (Vasco da Gama railway station) and other stations are being provided with proper announcements. If the intensity of the cyclone is more, then trains will be stopped. However, very few trains are running. Loading and unloading for railway rakes at ports is calibrated and adjusted as per intensity of cyclone and all concerned have been asked to adjust the operations and ensure that loss of human life and property is avoided, the ministry said in the statement.
The ministry also said that all vulnerable areas and important bridges are being constantly monitored by engineering wings, and relief material has been kept at convenient locations for quick response.
The railways however, managed to load two of its oxygen expresses bound for Delhi and NCR regions before the storm picked up speed. Despite the cyclone, railways run early morning two Oxygen Expresses from Gujarat to beat high winds and deliver 150 tonnes of oxygen to the nation. While one of them left from Vadodara at 4 am with two RORO trucks and 45 tonnes of Liquid Medical Oxygen (LMO) for delivery in Delhi region, the other left Hapa at 5.30 am with six tankers loaded with 106 tonnes of oxygen relief for deliveries for UP and Delhi region, the statement stated. Gale-force winds, heavy rainfall and high tidal waves swept the coastal belts of Maharashtra and Goa as Cyclone Tauktae hurtled northwards towards Gujarat.