New Delhi CNN  — 

India was slammed on Monday by the strongest storm on record to reach its west coast, hampering authorities’ response to the Covid-19 crisis in some of the country’s hardest hit regions.

Tropical Cyclone Tauktae, a storm with wind speeds equivalent to a high-end Category 3 hurricane that formed in the Arabian Sea, made landfall Monday night local time in Gujarat. It strengthened slightly as it hit the western state with maximum sustained winds of 205 kilometers per hour (125 mph), according to the United States’ Joint Typhoon Warning Center.

By Tuesday morning, it had weakened from an “extremely severe cyclonic storm” to a “severe cyclonic storm,” according to the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD).

Photos and videos show highways turned into rivers by the heavy rain, and trees and power lines toppled by ferocious winds. The cyclone has killed at least 26 people across the coastal states of Gujarat, Kerala, Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra, according to state authorities.

Waves lash over onto a shoreline in Mumbai on May 17 as Cyclone Tauktae bears down on India.

The deaths were due to drowning at sea, house collapses, lightning strikes and other accidents linked to the severe weather, according to states’ disaster management authorities.

This comes as India reels from its second wave of coronavirus, which has infected millions and killed tens of thousands since it began in mid-March. Though daily case figures began declining over the past week, Covid-related deaths continue to break record highs and the crisis is far from over – especially in rural areas with fewer resources and medical supplies.

Covid patients were among the hundreds of thousands evacuated from low-lying areas this week as the region braced for the cyclone’s arrival. In Mumbai, 580 patients from makeshift care centers were moved to various hospitals on Friday and Saturday, according to the city’s municipal corporation.

It’s not the first time India has dealt with natural disasters during the pandemic – last year, the country faced cyclones in late May and early June that also prompted mass evacuations.

A coronavirus vaccination center in Mumbai, India, with part of its entrance hallway blown away by strong cyclone winds on May 17.

Back then, however, India’s cases were still relatively low, at fewer than 10,000 a day, and the country was emerging from a stringent lockdown.

This time, India is the global epicenter of the pandemic. Its health care system has collapsed and patients are still dying from shortages of oxygen and other supplies. The government is more fragile and under greater scrutiny than before, as it struggles to contain the outbreak while facing heavy criticism both at home and overseas.

And the cyclone could be just the harbinger of more disaster to come, as India’s months-long monsoon season approaches.

‘A terrible double blow’

More than 200,000 people in Gujarat have been evacuated from coastal areas, said the state’s chief minister, Vijay Rupani, on Monday. More than 2,435 villages lost power, though 484 have since had it restored.

Storm surges of up to 13 feet (4 meters) could bring significant coastal flooding to the region, the IMD warned. Ahmedabad, the most populated city in Gujarat, could see nearly 4 inches (102 mm) of rainfall in the next 24 to 48 hours – more than its average rainfall from January through June.

Thousands of people in Kerala and Karnataka are seeking refuge in relief camps, with many homes damaged by extreme weather, according to the chief ministers of both states.

Fishermen pull their boats as Cyclone Tauktae approaches at Worli village, Mumbai, India, on May 17.

India’s National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has deployed more than 100 teams across six coastal states to help efforts on the ground. The Indian military has also been deployed; on Tuesday, the Navy said it rescued 177 people from a barge that sank in an offshore oilfield off the coast of Mumbai.

The cyclone, which is tracking north, is also impacting the pandemic relief effort.

Among the 400 Covid-19 hospitals in Gujarat, power supply has been disrupted to 100, said Rupani on Tuesday. All the hospitals have backup generators – but these appliances failed at four hospitals, leaving them without electricity.

Authorities are working to repair the affected generators, Rupani said. Vaccinations have been suspended across Gujarat.

“The big concern was that of Covid,” he said. “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.”