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Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Tuesday appealed to the people of Mumbai to "stay indoors". "The cyclone could be more severe than the ones the state has faced till now... Tomorrow (Wednesday) and the day after are crucial in coastal areas... Activities which had resumed (as part of easing of lockdown) will be kept shut there for the next two days, people should remain alert," Mr Thackeray said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had earlier in the day tweeted: "Took stock of the situation in the wake of cyclone conditions in parts of India's western coast. Praying for everyone's well-being. I urge people to take all possible precautions and safety measures (sic)". The PMO tweeted, "PM @narendramodi has spoken to CM of Maharashtra Shri Uddhav Thackeray, CM of Gujarat Shri @vijayrupanibjp and Administrator of Daman Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli Shri @prafulkpatel regarding the cyclone situation. He assured all possible support and assistance from the Centre. (sic)". On Monday, Union Home Minister Amit Shah spoke to Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to review preparations for the cyclone.
Cyclone Nisarga is expected to have wind speeds in excess of 100 km per hour, with gusts up to 120 km per hour. The Met department has also warned of one to two metre-high (three to 6.5 feet) storm surges inundating low-lying areas of Maharashtra. On Tuesday afternoon the IMD said: "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".
Over 30 NDRF (National Disaster Response Force) teams have been deployed in areas expected to be affected along Maharashtra and Gujarat coasts. One NDRF team consists of 45 personnel. Gujarat has asked for five additional teams; 15 will be stationed in the state by Tuesday evening, with two more on standby, NDRF chief SN Pradhan said. Ten teams have been sent to Maharashtra with six on standby.
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray's Office (CMO) has listed some of the measures being taken. These include evacuating those staying in thatched huts. "Slum dwellers in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, particularly those in low-lying areas, have been asked to evacuate," the CMO 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.
"Teams are being prepared to tackle damage that may be caused by fallen trees, landslides and heavy rainfall," the CMO added. 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 IMD to ensure coordination. Three NDRF teams in the state have been stationed in Mumbai, with two in Palghar and one each in Raigad, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg.
Around 20,000 people from 47 coastal villages in Gujarat's Valsad and Navsari districts are being evacuated. "We have already identified shelter homes and started the evacuation of nearly 10,000 from 35 villages," RR Raval, Valsad District Collector, was quoted by news agency PTI. In neighbouring Navsari district, the administration has begun evacuating around 10,200 people from 12 villages.
Indian Coast Guard ships and planes have been deployed along the coast to warn fishermen and merchant ships to return to harbour. In two widely-shared videos, Coast Guard sailors can be seen exhorting fishermen to return to shore. "This is a warning of heavy rain and bad weather in this area. You are all asked to turn your boats towards the harbour as soon as possible," the sailor can be heard saying.
Maharashtra is already battling a COVID-19 outbreak of alarming proportions; there are over 70,000 confirmed cases in the state with 2,362 deaths linked to the virus. Hospitals and law enforcement agencies, particularly in Mumbai, are already stretched.
Cyclone Nisarga will be the second to strike India's coasts in less than two weeks; last month Cyclone Amphan, one of the worst storms to have formed over the Bay of Bengal in recent years, struck Bengal and parts of Odisha, killing nearly 100 people and affecting lakhs. Bengal Chief Minister estimated the damage done at Rs 1 lakh crore.
With inputs from PTI
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