Cyclone Biparjoy, a powerful storm that wreaked havoc on the coasts of Gujarat, India, and Karachi, Pakistan in June 2023, left a trail of destruction in its wake. With sustained windspeeds reaching up to 180 km/h and gusts of 200 km/h, this “Extremely Severe Cyclonic Storm” (ESCS) brought heavy rain, strong winds, and coastal storm surges to the affected regions. In this article, we will delve into the timeline, impact, and response to Cyclone Biparjoy, highlighting the resilience of the communities affected by this devastating natural disaster.
The Formation and Intensification of Cyclone Biparjoy
Cyclone Biparjoy originated in the Arabian Sea and began its journey on June 6, 2023. This long-lived cyclone took advantage of unusually warm sea surface temperatures, which were 2°C to 4°C above the climatological mean. These warm waters provided the necessary fuel for Biparjoy’s rapid intensification twice during its lifetime. By June 14, the storm had reached Category 1 status on the Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale, with wind speeds of 129 km/h.
The Path of Destruction
On June 15, Cyclone Biparjoy made landfall as a “very severe cyclonic storm” with sustained wind speeds of 125 to 135 km/h. The impact was felt most strongly in Gujarat’s Kutch district and Karachi, Pakistan. The storm brought heavy rainfall, storm surges, and strong winds, resulting in significant damage to infrastructure, homes, and livelihoods.
Impact on Gujarat, India
Gujarat, a western state in India, bore the brunt of Cyclone Biparjoy’s wrath. The city of Mumbai, a densely populated area, experienced multiple deaths, including drownings off the coast. The storm’s strong winds, rain, and high tides lashed several regions in western India, causing widespread destruction. As a precautionary measure, more than 30,000 people and 200,000 animals were evacuated to higher ground to ensure their safety.
Impact on Karachi, Pakistan
Karachi, the largest city in Pakistan, also faced severe consequences from Cyclone Biparjoy. The storm surge, reaching up to two meters, inundated low-lying areas and settlements. The districts of Thatta, Badin, Sajawal, and Karachi in Sindh Province were particularly affected. Over 81,000 people had to be relocated to 64 relief camps set up by the government. The Provincial Disaster Management Authority Sindh dispatched relief and rescue items and human resources to vulnerable districts to support the affected communities.
Response and Relief Efforts
In the face of this catastrophic event, both India and Pakistan swiftly mobilized their resources to provide relief and support to the affected regions.
India activated 27 national and state Disaster Response teams and over 400 road and communication restoration teams in different coastal districts of Gujarat. The government also established 193 temporary relief camps, accommodating over 75,000 people who had been evacuated from vulnerable areas. The National Red Cross Society in India played a crucial role by activating a 24/7 emergency operation room and dispatching Non-Food Items (NFIs) and trained staff to the field.
Pakistan’s Provincial Disaster Management Authority Sindh took immediate action by setting up 75 relief camps in six districts of Sindh Province, sheltering 81,925 people. The National Red Cross Society in Pakistan also played a vital role by activating a 24/7 emergency operation room and dispatching NFIs and trained staff to assist affected communities.
The Aftermath and Recovery Efforts
As the storm subsided, the affected regions faced the daunting task of recovery and rebuilding. The governments of India and Pakistan, along with various national and international humanitarian organizations, worked tirelessly to provide essential aid and support to the affected communities.
Rehabilitation and Reconstruction
Rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts were initiated to restore normalcy to the lives of those affected. The governments focused on repairing damaged infrastructure, including roads, bridges, and communication networks, to ensure connectivity to the affected regions. The rebuilding process also encompassed the restoration of homes, schools, and healthcare facilities to provide a sense of stability and normalcy to the affected communities.
Assistance to Affected Individuals
Special attention was given to the welfare of individuals who had suffered losses due to the cyclone. Financial aid, food supplies, clean drinking water, and medical assistance were provided to ensure the well-being of the affected population. Psychosocial support was also extended to help individuals cope with the trauma and loss they had experienced.
Lessons Learned and Future Preparedness
Cyclone Biparjoy serves as a stark reminder of the increasing frequency and intensity of cyclonic storms in the Arabian Sea. Scientists have attributed these changes to rising sea surface temperatures, which are directly linked to climate change. The prolonged lifespan of Biparjoy and its slower movement highlight the need for enhanced preparedness and mitigation measures to minimize the impact of future cyclones.
Climate Change and Cyclone Intensity
The warming of the Arabian Sea due to climate change has contributed to the intensification and prolonged lifespan of cyclones like Biparjoy. As ocean temperatures continue to rise, it becomes imperative to address the underlying issues of climate change and implement sustainable measures to mitigate its impact on vulnerable coastal regions.
Early Warning Systems and Preparedness
Improving early warning systems and preparedness measures is crucial to saving lives and minimizing damage caused by cyclones. Governments and humanitarian organizations must invest in robust communication networks, weather monitoring systems, and community-based disaster management strategies to ensure timely evacuations and effective response during such events.
Cyclone Biparjoy left a lasting impact on the coasts of Gujarat, India, and Karachi, Pakistan. The storm’s powerful winds, heavy rainfall, and storm surges brought devastation to these regions. However, the coordinated response and relief efforts by the governments and humanitarian organizations demonstrated the resilience and solidarity of the affected communities. As we reflect on this catastrophic event, it is essential to learn from it, strengthen our preparedness, and work toward sustainable solutions to mitigate the impact of future cyclones.