More than 19,000 people in coronavirus-hit Maharashtra, including some COVID-19 patients, have been moved to safety ahead of the expected landfall of severe cyclonic storm Nisarga in Alibaug - about 100 km from Mumbai- in a few hours. Cyclone Nisarga is the second storm to hit India in two weeks and the first such storm to hit the financial capital in over 100 years.
Mumbai - the worst-affected city in the country by the pandemic with over 41,000 COVID-19 patients - has banned the movement of people near the coastline till Thursday afternoon, the police said in a late-night order. The city and its suburbs are on a high alert and thousands have been evacuated to safety. A high-tide warning has been issued for the city.
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.
Rescue teams have been kept on standby in various areas close to the coastal areas. In Mumbai's Dadar, cleaning activity has been suspended on the beach. Those staying close to the beach have been warned, officials said.
In an elaborate list of dos and don'ts, the city's civic body - Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation - has asked people to keep an emergency kit ready, stay away from windows, check for air leaks and damage to electrical equipment.
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.
On Tuesday, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray urged the people to stay indoors. "The cyclone could be more severe than the ones the state has faced till now... Tomorrow 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.
Several parts in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Daman and Diu, and Dadra and Nagar Haveli fall on the path of the cyclone that developed over a low pressure area over the Arabian Sea.