India surpasses 25 million COVID-19 cases as powerful cyclone slows response effort

(NEW DELHI) — A cyclone pummeled India on Monday, the nation’s deadliest day of the pandemic, as the country also surpassed a grave milestone: 25 million COVID-19 cases.

India, now the global epicenter of the pandemic, is seeing this second wave of infection only worsen as response efforts have been made more difficult by Tropical Cyclone Tauktae, which made landfall in Gujarat on Monday night.

The storm was the strongest to hit the region in more than two decades, with sustained winds of 103 mph, the India Meteorological Department said, hitting the states of Gujarat, Kerala, Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra the hardest.

India recorded at least 20 dead and 125 missing at sea following the cyclone’s arrival, which knocked out electricity in Goa. Over 150,000 people had already been evacuated ahead of the storm, and 177 navy personnel were rescued, according to the Indian Navy.

Tauktae weakened into a cyclonic storm Tuesday, then into a deep depression, IMD reported.

Devastating footage from the ground revealed powerful waves beating coastal cities, heavily flooded streets and highways, pounding rain and toppled trees and power lines.

In the midst of the natural disaster, India reported 4,329 COVID-19-related deaths on Monday. As of Tuesday, more than 25 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported, along with at least 278,719 deaths, according to John Hopkins data.

There have been efforts to help curb the spread of COVID-19 among those evacuated from coastal areas, with relief shelters encouraging mask-wearing and social distancing.

Vaccine efforts in the state were suspended for two days due to the storm, and many inundated hospitals were forced to wait for back-up generators and oxygen supplies.

Maharashtra suffered 1,000 coronavirus deaths overnight — the most in the nation, according to the government’s COVID-19 tracker.

The state has the most COVID-19 cases in the country at more than 4.8 million, according to India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare

India, the world’s largest vaccine producer, paused vaccine exports a month ago after donating or selling millions of doses. The nation has seen a slowdown in its vaccination rollout and hospitals have become overwhelmed with virus patients and shortages of supplies.

About 184 million vaccine doses have been distributed so far in India, the nation’s health ministry reported.

India is likely to be one of the countries that will benefit from U.S. President Joe Biden’s announcement on Monday that his administration will send at least 20 million more vaccine doses abroad by the end of June.

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