Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Tuesday appealed to people to stay indoors for the next two days, as the tropical storm Nisarga threatens to make landfall with high winds and flooding in many parts of the state. The storm comes at a time the state has been grappling with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Cyclone Nisarga was forecast to make landfall Wednesday afternoon near Mumbai, which hasn’t been hit by a cyclone in more than a century, raising concern about its readiness. The Mumbai Police has has issued prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, banning all movement of groups of people on beaches and along promenades close to the city’s coastline, according to ANI.
The India Meteorological Department department said the storm could intensify throughout the day into a “severe cyclonic storm,” which is defined as a cyclone with wind speeds of 119 to 165 kilometres per hour. It is the fourth most powerful category on the local scale.
The storm is expected to bring wind speeds in excess of 100 km per hour in Mumbai over the next 12 hours, according to the weather department. It also warned of one to two metre-high storm surges inundating low-lying areas of Maharashtra.
“It is very likely to move nearly northwards during the next few hours, recurve north-northeastwards thereafter and cross north Maharashtra and adjoining south Gujarat coast [between Harihareshwar and Daman, close to Alibag in Maharashtra’s Raigad district] on the afternoon of June 3”, the weather department said in a bulletin on Tuesday afternoon.
In a video address, Thackeray asked the residents of Mumbai to be prepared to face possible power cuts as strong winds will strike the city. He asked them to charge their gadgets and if possible, keep emergency lights handy.
“As per the trajectory of the system, it [the cyclone] is expected to make the landfall somewhere near south of Mumbai, Sunitha Devi, a scientist at Regional Specialised Meteorological Centre, Delhi, told The Indian Express. “But it is a dynamic system and is subject to change in the next 24 to 48 hours. Mumbai is in the trajectory and will feel the adverse impact of the [developing] cyclone.”
Maharashtra, which is struggling with the nation’s highest number of coronavirus infections and deaths, has deployed ten teams of the National Disaster Response Force for rescue and relief operations. Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s office said that an alert has been issued for Mumbai, Thane, Palghar, Raigad, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts. Three NDRF teams in the state have been stationed in Mumbai, with two in Palghar and one each in Raigad, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg, according to NDTV.
Thackeray’s office said on Twitter that residents in Mumbai’s expansive slums had been ordered to evacuate, though it is unclear if shelters have been set up for them.
“Slum dwellers in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, particularly those in low-lying areas, have been asked to evacuate,” the Chief Minister’s Office said. “Non-Covid-19 hospitals have been instructed to prepare for any medical emergencies. The state is also taking measures in case of breaks in electricity supply and to secure the nuclear power plant in Palghar district.”
A control room has been established at the Maharahtra Secretariat building and will be operational round-the-clock. Instructions have also been given to the Army, Air Force, Navy and the weather department to ensure coordination.
Meanwhile, the Indian Navy said that the Western Naval Command has mobilised adequate resources for flood relief, rescue and diving assistance in the event of excessive rainfall and flooding of both, urban and rural areas, ANI reported. “All teams have been put on alert and are in readiness to respond to any requirement of Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief during the storm period,” it added.
Nisarga comes just two weeks after Cyclone Amphan tore through the Bay of Bengal on India’s east coast and battered West Bengal, killing more than 100 people in India and neighbouring Bangladesh. Although post-monsoon flooding is common in Mumbai in the fall, some experts fear the city isn’t prepared for the high winds and storm surges that come with a cyclone. The storm is also likely to overwhelm the state’s already fragile infrastructure amid the pandemic.