MUMBAI • Coronavirus-hit Mumbai appeared to escape the worst of Cyclone Nisarga yesterday as the first severe storm to threaten India’s financial capital in more than 70 years left it largely unscathed, after ripping roofs off homes in a nearby coastal town.
The storm made landfall near the coastal town of Alibag, around 100km south of Mumbai, in the afternoon, meteorologists said.
It then crossed Maharashtra’s coast, with its path veering to the east of Mumbai, and its power was expected to weaken last night, they added.
It was moving north-eastwards and away from Mumbai, the weather office said in a statement.
The cyclone brought heavy rainfall – with winds of 100kmh to 110kmh and gusts of up to 120kmh.
Mumbai experienced downpours throughout the afternoon, with strong winds toppling trees in some cases.
Alibag suffered worse damage, with the cyclone tearing roofs off homes and overturning mobile food stalls.
Mumbai and its surrounding areas are usually sheltered from cyclones – the last deadly storm to hit the city was in 1948 – but the authorities evacuated at least 100,000 people, including coronavirus patients, from flood-prone areas in the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat.
About 40 teams from the National Disaster Response Force had been deployed in Maharashtra and Gujarat, while three others were ready in reserve, the agency said in a Twitter post.
A 45-year-old professor evacuated from his house near the sea said he could see corrugated roofing flying through the air as the cyclone’s powerful winds struck.
“The intensity is very strong and nothing like weather events we’ve seen before,” said Mr Milind Dhodre, who lives in Alibag with his wife and son.
The coastal town is a favoured haunt of Bollywood stars and industrialists, who own holiday homes there.
In Mumbai, the police announced fresh restrictions on the city of 18 million people – which was just beginning to emerge from a months-long coronavirus lockdown – and banned gatherings of four people or more until this afternoon.
Mumbai, the city worst hit by the coronavirus in India, is home to a fifth of the country’s more than 200,000 virus cases.
The storm evacuees included nearly 150 coronavirus patients from a recently built field hospital in Mumbai, underscoring the difficulties facing the city ahead of the monsoon season as it struggles to contain the outbreak.
“Refrain from venturing out to coast-beaches, promenade, parks and other similar places along the coastline,” the police tweeted early yesterday.
The storm evacuees included nearly 150 coronavirus patients from a recently built field hospital in Mumbai, underscoring the difficulties facing the city ahead of the monsoon season as it struggles to contain the pandemic.
“Do not leave your house, for your own safety and well-being,” Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray tweeted late on Tuesday, warning of possible disruptions to the power supply due to heavy rainfall.
Warnings of storm surges up to 2m high remained in effect yesterday afternoon, with slum dwellers in low-lying areas of Mumbai instructed to move to higher ground.
Even as the city’s residents breathed a sigh of relief, forecasters warned that the storm could still carry a sting in its tail until it eased.
“Next four hours crucial for #Mumbai, the tail of the cyclone may lash and can cause severe damage,” tweeted Mr Jatin Singh, head weatherman at Skymet Weather, a private forecaster.
The storm triggered disruptions to travel as well, with planes grounded and interstate railway services delayed or diverted to ensure that trains would not travel through the city until the cyclone had passed.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG