By Sumit Khanna
Ahmedabad, May 17 (Reuters) - Nearly 150,000 people were moved from their homes in the Indian state of Gujarat to safety on Monday and authorities closed ports and a main airport as the most intense cyclone in more than two decades roared up the west coast.
Cyclone Tauktae has killed eight people and left a trail of destruction as it brushed past the coastal states of Kerala, Karnataka and Goa, authorities said.
It is set to make landfall in Gujarat late on Monday.
"This will be the most severe cyclone to hit Gujarat in at least 20 years. This can be compared with the 1998 cyclone that hit Kandla and inflicted heavy damage," state revenue secretary Pankaj Kumar told Reuters.
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) categorized the storm, which formed in the Arabian Sea, as an "extremely severe" storm, upgrading it from the "very severe" category.
The financial hub of Mumbai was lashed with heavy rain and strong wind as Cyclone Tauktae headed north. Strong winds forced authorities to suspend operations at Mumbai's airport, and close some main roads.
The cyclone, with sustained surface wind speeds of 180-190 kmph and gusts up to 210 kmph that would put it on par with a Category 3 hurricane, is rated one level below the IMD's super cyclone category.
As well as the eight deaths in Goa and Karnataka, 28 fishing boats were missing, a coastguard official told Reuters.
Gujarat's state administration moved nearly 150,000 people from coastal communities and deployed more than 50 disaster response teams.
The 1998 cyclone that ravaged Gujarat killed at least 4,000 people and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage, media reported at the time. (Reporting by Sumit Khanna in Ahmedabad, Rajendra Jadhav and Aishwarya Nair in Mumbai; Writing by Nupur Anand; Editing by Euan Rocha, Robert Birsel)