Cyclone Biparjoy was crawling along the Arabian Sea with hurricane strength winds and appeared to be on a path toward the border of Pakistan and India, where the authorities have ordered tens of thousands of residents to evacuate before the storm makes landfall on Thursday.
The cyclone, whose name means “disaster” in Bengali, had fluctuated between the equivalent of a Category 1 and Category 2 hurricane, with winds ranging from 90 to 100 miles per hour early on Wednesday. It is expected to weaken to a strong tropical storm as it approaches Jakhau Port in India, with winds dropping slightly below 74 m.p.h.
Across the broader region, forecasters say the cyclone will generate heavy rain and powerful tropical-storm-force winds of over 39 m.p.h. extending to at least 80 miles from the storm’s center, from the state of Gujarat in western India to the port city of Karachi, Pakistan. Tide levels are forecast to rise six to 10 feet above normal in areas near and just south of the cyclone’s center.
On Thursday afternoon, the storm is expected to cross between Keti Bandar, a fishing harbor nearly 200 miles east of Karachi, and the Kutch district of Gujarat.
The authorities in Gujarat ordered residents living within six miles off the coast to move to safer places. More than 80,000 people in Pakistan were evacuated, with the authorities directing businesses and malls to close along the coastline of Karachi, a city of 22 million people.
The authorities prepared days in advance of the expected onslaught. In Pakistan’s southern coastal areas, thousands of people left their homes for safer ground. Schools and other government buildings were converted into relief shelters.
“It would be far more difficult and risky to evacuate people once the cyclone hits the coastline,” Syed Murad Ali Shah, the chief minister of the Sindh Province in Pakistan, told the provincial parliament at its meeting on Tuesday. He said the priority was to evacuate the coastal areas of Thatta, Sujawal and Badin.
Sharjeel Memon, the provincial information minister in Sindh, said more than 64,000 people had been evacuated from vulnerable areas by Wednesday morning. Heavy rains and dust storms in coastal areas added urgency to the evacuations. Seawater had started seeping into villages, residents said.
Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s climate change minister, said Karachi was likely to face flooding because of the scale and intensity of the winds.
Last year, torrential rains caused widespread urban flooding and damage to the port city, bringing it to a standstill for days. At least 31 people died, many of whom were electrocuted or drowned after roofs and walls collapsed on them, according to the provincial disaster agency.
Tropical cyclones in the Arabian Sea have become more frequent in recent decades because of warming sea-surface temperatures in the region, which are enhanced by a warming climate, according to researchers.
Pakistan, and particularly Sindh Province, is still reeling from the devastating 2022 floods, which submerged large parts of the country, killed almost 1,700 people and displaced a large population.
In India, meteorologists said the cyclone was expected to make landfall near the Kutch district on Thursday afternoon. A statement issued by the India Meteorological Department said roads would be inundated and some houses and crops would be damaged or destroyed.
Television footage from the state of Maharashtra, home to the city of Mumbai, showed high waves inundating roads along the coast.
Mohsen Shahedi, an official with the National Disaster Response Force in India, said that more than 45,000 people had been evacuated and that local government efforts to bring people to safe shelter would continue through Wednesday evening.
The authorities asked residents to move livestock, close schools and suspend fishing. Officials warned residents in northern Gujarat of the potential for flash flooding and landslides.
“The wind is very, very strong, and we were scared,” said Bhavesh Mukht, a fisherman in the Kutch district. “After police started announcing on loudspeakers asking people to move, we left everything behind.”
Christine Hauser is a reporter, covering national and foreign news. Her previous jobs in the newsroom include stints in Business covering financial markets and on the Metro desk in the police bureau. @ChristineNYT
Judson Jones is a meteorologist and reporter for The Times, covering the most extreme storms across the globe. @thejudsonjones
Sameer Yasir is a reporter based in New Delhi. He joined The Times in 2020. @sameeryasir