A tropical storm over the Arabian Sea approaching India’s western coast near Mumbai prompted authorities in the region to issue high alerts and evacuate thousands of people yesterday.
Cyclone Nisarga is expected to make landfall close to Alibag, 100km south of Mumbai, today afternoon, the Indian Meteorological Department said.
The storm is expected to bring heavy rains and winds gusting up to 120kmph.
Mumbai is already struggling with the highest number of coronavirus cases in the country, as the authorities battle with 41,000 infections.
Officials have begun to evacuate people from vulnerable and low-lying areas in Maharashtra state.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said people living in flimsy homes near the shore were being moved to safer places.
“Slum-dwellers in low-lying areas have been instructed to evacuate,” Thackeray said in a message posted by his office on Twitter.
Nisarga is also expected to hit neighbouring Gujarat and the coastal region of Daman, where authorities evacuated more than 10,000 people.
“We have shifted more than 6,000 people from low-lying coastal areas to higher ground,” said Rakesh Minhas, a senior official in Daman.
Another 4,000 people were moved out of coastal villages in Gujarat’s Valsad and Navsari districts, officials said.
Extra care is being taken to prevent disruption to the power supply as thousands of patients undergo treatment in hospitals throughout the region, National Disaster Response Force officials said.
Hospitals not treating coronavirus patients will be preparing for those in need of medical assistance, they said.
“While we fight Covid, we are prepping ourselves to also deal with cyclone... We have to safeguard our citizens and the city at large. All the wards have begun the pre cyclone preps,” Aaditya Thackeray, a leader of Maharashtra’s ruling Shiv Sena party, said on Twitter.
Authorities evacuated nearly 150 Covid-19 patients from a recently built field hospital to a facility with a concrete roof as a precautionary measure, officials said.
Mumbai, with a population of 20mn, has faced relatively few cyclones during the past hundred years.
This is the first major storm in decades.
Past storms weathered by the city include Cyclone Phyan in 2009, with wind speeds up to 85kmph, and another storm in 1961, according to IMD chief Mrutyunjay Mohapatra.
The approaching storm could create waves as high as 2m, which could inundate low-lying coastal areas of Mumbai, Thane and Raigad districts, he said.
Fishermen have been warned not to venture out to sea.
The storm may cause major damage to power and communication lines, as well as huts, thatched homes and crops, Mohapatra said.
The NDRF has mobilised 32 teams, and a total of 1,500 men are ready in the two states to help with evacuations and relief.
Nisarga is the second cyclone to strike India in a little over a week.
On May 21, Cyclone Amphan battered the country’s eastern coast including Kolkata, and neighbouring Bangladesh, killing more than 100 people and leaving a trail of destruction.
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