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Cyclone batters fishing hub but veers away from Indian coast

VERAVAL, India — A cyclone in the Arabian Sea battered an Indian fishing hub with heavy wind, waves and rain Thursday and was forecast to bring dangerous weather even as it veered away from the western coast.

The India Meteorological Department said Cyclone Vayu, the season’s second major storm and named after the Hindi word for wind, had jogged west, skirting the coast of the western state of Gujarat, and was unlikely to hit it head on as previously forecast. Pakistan warned of rough seas and dangerous heat, though the cyclone wasn’t expected to directly hit the port city of Karachi.

In anticipation of the storm, rescue workers evacuated nearly 300,000 people, taking a cue from Cyclone Fani, which came ashore on India’s eastern coast in May, killing 34 people in India and 15 in neighbouring Bangladesh.

An unprecedented evacuation effort that involved relocating about a million people ahead of Fani was credited with saving many lives.

Though not as severe as Fani and unlikely to make landfall, Vayu could leave dangerous conditions in its wake, Indian authorities cautioned.

Sathi Devi, the government scientist in charge of monitoring the storm, said Vayu would come closest to land at midafternoon, stirring up winds of up to 150 kilometres (93 miles) per hour before turning sharply westward into open water.

In Veraval, a hub of India’s fishing industry, heavy wind and rain from Vayu battered the beaches. Fishing boats were splintered by huge waves crashing onto shore. Local police were making a last-minute appeal to hut dwellers to leave their homes.

A blanket of steady rain came down in the coastal city of Porbandar, the birthplace of Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi.

With the worst averted, rescue workers, including 50 teams from the National Disaster Relief Force and around 1,000 Indian navy and army personnel, were searching for any villagers who remained in coastal areas to urge them to relocate to school buildings and other designated evacuation sites.

“We expect the high winds to remain until tomorrow morning and some disturbances to remain until around Saturday or Sunday,” said Hemendra Khatma, assistant force commander.

Pakistan’s meteorological department warned fishermen to stay on land this week as the cyclone could cause rough sea conditions.

The cyclone was not likely to directly impact the southern port city of Karachi, but the department said the weather system could cause dust storms and rain in various parts of the southern Sindh province.

It said a heatwave was likely to hit Karachi on Thursday and Friday because the cyclone could stifle sea breezes, with temperatures rising to 42 degrees Celsius (108 degrees Fahrenheit).

The meteorological department also asked authorities to remain alert through Saturday, even if Cyclone Vayu remained far away from the country’s coastal areas.

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Associated Press writers Amrit Dhillon and Mariya Amrayeva in New Delhi and Munir Ahmed in Islamabad contributed to this report.

Ajit Solanki, The Associated Press

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