Cyclone "Nisarga", which is headed towards the Maharashtra and Gujarat coasts, is likely to intensify into a "severe cyclonic storm" in the next 12 hours, and is expected to make landfall close to coronavirus-hit Mumbai tomorrow. This will be the second cyclone to strike India in two weeks and the first to hit the financial capital, which has logged over 41,000 coronavirus cases so far, in over a century.
Mumbai and neighbouring districts have been placed on a high alert. In a tweet, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said: "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)"
Took stock of the situation in the wake of cyclone conditions in parts of India's western coast.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) June 2, 2020
Praying for everyone's well-being. I urge people to take all possible precautions and safety measures.
The storm - expected to have a wind speed of 100 km per hour, gusting up to 120 kmph - is "very likely to intensify into a severe cyclonic storm during next 12 hours," the India Meteorological Department or IMD said this afternoon.
"It is very likely to move nearly northwards during next few hours, recurve north-northeastwards thereafter and cross north Maharashtra and adjoining south Gujarat coast between Harihareshwar and Daman, close to Alibag (Raigad District, Maharashtra) during the afternoon June 3 as a severe cyclonic storm with a maximum sustained wind speed of 100-110 kmph gusting to 120 kmph," the IMD statement read.
On Monday, Union Home Minister Amit Shah spoke to Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray through video conferencing and reviewed the state's preparedness, the Chief Minister's office said.
More than 30 teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have been deployed in Maharashtra and Gujarat. A team of the NDRF comprises about 45 personnel.
"Gujarat has asked for five more teams. By this evening, 15 NDRF teams would be deployed in Gujarat and two are on standby. Ten teams are deployed in Maharashtra and six teams are on standby. Evacuation process and awareness drive has been initiated," NDRF chief SN Pradhan said today.
Nearly 20,000 people from villages near Gujarat coast are likely to be evacuated, news agency PTI reported, quoting officials. "Nisarga is a severe cyclone and we're expecting a wind speed of 90-100 kmph, which I think is negotiable. Still, as a precautionary measure, we are going to start the evacuation of people from the coastal areas of the two states (Maharashtra and Gujarat)," the NDRF chief had said yesterday.
A storm surge - as high as two metres above the astronomical tide - will inundate the low-lying coastal areas of Mumbai, Thane and Raigad districts during the landfall, the weather department has said.
Fishermen have been asked to come back from the sea and respective district collectors have been asked to ensure there is no loss of life, a statement from the Maharashtra Chief Minister's office said. Hospitals that are not treating coronavirus patients will be made available for those needing medical assistance, it added.
The storm may cause major damage to thatched houses, huts, power and communication lines and coastal crops, the weather department has said.
Steps are being taken to ensure there is no disruption of power supply at a time when the state is battling the coronavirus crisis and thousands of patients are undergoing treatment in various hospitals, the NDRF said on Monday.
The tropical storm's landfall comes weeks after Cyclone Amphan killed 99 people in Bengal and affected lakhs. "The people of those states have shown remarkable courage," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday during his monthly radio address "Mann Ki Baat", adding, "India stands with Odisha and West Bengal".