A cyclone in India's western states has complicated efforts to slow down the COVID-19 spread as cases surpass 25 million

  • India recorded its deadliest day of the pandemic with 4,329 deaths on Tuesday. 
  • The grim milestone comes as the parts of the country were hit with the strongest cyclone on record. 
  • Experts are worried the evacuation of thousands as a result of the storm will cause a rise in cases.
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A powerful cyclone that hit India is hampering efforts to slow down COVID-19 infections as the country surpassed 25 million cases on Tuesday, Reuters reported. 

Cyclone Tauktae was the strongest storm on record to hit the west coast of the country and has forced tens of thousands of residents in western states like Gujarat and Maharashtra to evacuate, CNN reported. 

“You have to evacuate [people] in a certain way because you do not want COVID infections on your hands post-cyclone,” India’s disaster relief chief, Satya Pradhan, told local media.

So far the cyclone has killed 26 people as a result of drowning, houses collapsing, or lighting strikes. Gusts of wind reached up to 130 miles per hour, NPR reported. 

At least 177 workers have been rescued by Indiannavy helicopters in “extremely challenging circumstances.”

While cyclones are more common on the eastern side of the country, forecasters have attributed changing climate patterns as the cause for the cyclone, which started in the Arabian sea.

India’s western states were also some of the worst-hit regions during this second wave of COVID-19. Patients in Mumbai hospitals have been evacuated and moved to other health facilities farther inland, NPR reported. 

The storm has caused over 2,435 villages to lose power. So far, power has only been restored to less than 500. Outages also impacted 100 of the 400 COVID-19 hospitals in Gujarat and has forced vaccination efforts to be suspended. 

“The big concern was that of COVID,” Gujarat’s chief minister, Vijay Rupani, told CNN. “The oxygen which we produce has been transported to our hospitals, but we also have to send oxygen to other states such as Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Delhi, Haryana, etc.”

India has been the epicenter of the pandemic for the past several weeks, recording record numbers of infection and at one point tallied over 400,000 cases in a day, a grim milestone. The country suffered its deadliest day of the pandemic on Tuesday with 4,329 deaths recorded over the past 24 hours. Only the United States has recorded a daily death toll higher, when 5,444 COVID-19 deaths were recorded on February 12. 

Hospitals are running out of oxygen and patients have been dying at record rates. Experts told Reuters the death toll could be as much as five to 10 times higher than what is being reported.

The outbreak has been attributed to more infectious coronavirus variants, relaxed social distancing efforts, and a slow vaccine rollout. 

“It will get worse before it gets better,” Ashish Jha, a physician and Dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health, said of India’s outbreak on Twitter. 

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