Cyclone Ockhi is expected to make landfall off the Gujarat coast early on Wednesday (PTI photo)
Mumbai: Cyclone Ockhi, which was expected to make landfall near Gujarat's Surat, is gradually weakening and may not hit the coast as predicted earlier, the Meteorological Centre has said. The cyclonic storm has turned into a "deep depression" and may hit south Gujarat only as a "depression" late tonight, according to an official statement. Gujarat is on alert, with rescue and relief teams stationed at its coast. Several top leaders were forced to cancel their election rallies in the state, which saw rain in several parts through the day. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's election rally in Surat, which was to take place on Wednesday, has been moved to Thursday. Ockhi passed by Mumbai earlier in the day bringing mostly light showers, but caused no damage to life or property, officials said. It earlier caused havoc in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Lakshadweep islands.
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Cyclone Ockhi, which battered parts of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Lakshadweep islands, is located around 240 km south-southwest of Surat.
"It is very likely to continue to move north-northeastwards, weaken further and cross south Gujarat and adjoining north Maharashtra coasts near Surat as a depression by tonight (5th December 2017)," the India Meteorological Department (IMD) forecast said.
However, there is also a probability Ockhi could dissipate over sea before landfall due to unfavourable environmental conditions, like high wind shear and colder sea surface temperatures near the coast, the forecast added.
The deep depression would bring light to moderate rain in several parts of Gujarat for the next three days as the sea condition would remain rough for the next 18 hours, the weather department said.
Although the cyclone has weakened, no chances are being taken. Teams of the National Disaster Response Force or NDRF have been stationed along the Gujarat coast near Surat and Saurashtra. "People have been advised not to go out at night. Those living in kuchha houses will be given shelter," said District Magistrate Mahendra Patel.
Election rallies to be addressed by PM Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah and others had to be postponed following rain and strong winds. Mr Shah's three rallies were to be held in Rajula, Mahuva and Sihor and one of the venues were waterlogged. Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi's chopper failed to land in Morbi and subsequent rallies at Dhrangadhra and Surendranagar were cancelled.
The Western Railways has deployed extra personnel for crowd management in case of any emergency.
In a series of tweets on Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed to BJP workers in Gujarat to help people across the state. "With Cyclone Ockhi expected to make a landfall in Gujarat, I appeal to @BJP4Gujarat Karyakartas to focus on helping people across the state. Our Karyakartas should devote themselves to providing all possible assistance and stand shoulder to shoulder with fellow citizens," his tweet read.
The Kerala government has intensified the search operations to trace the fishermen who have been missing since November 29. "As of now, 10 people died in Tamil Nadu and 29 others in Kerala. The whereabouts of 74 fishermen in Tamil Nadu and 93 fishermen in Kerala is not known yet," senior home ministry official Sanjeev Kumar told reporters.
"Operation Synergy" -- a joint rescue mission by the Navy, the Air Force, Coast Guard and state fisheries department has so far brought 252 fishermen to safety.