A storm in the Arabian Sea off the west coast of India intensified into a violent cyclone, accelerating as it heads towards Mumbai, the financial capital of India, is home to more than 20 million people.
Cyclone Nisarga is expected to drop heavy rain and winds up to 120 km (75 miles) per hour when it hits land Wednesday afternoon as a Category 4 cyclone near the coastal town of Alibagh, about 98 km (60 miles) south of Mumbai, India. said the weather service.
On Tuesday, at least 100,000 people, including some patients with coronavirus, were moved to safer locations.
According to Indian media reports, Nisarga is the worst cyclone to hit the region in more than a century, raising concerns about the state of readiness in Mumbai and surrounding areas.
The cyclonic storm in the Arabian Sea "is very likely to intensify into a severe cyclonic storm over the next 6 hours," the meteorological department said on Wednesday.
The cyclone also threatened to worsen the prospects for an economic recovery as the government-imposed coronavirus lockdown for nine weeks began to ease this week.
India's largest container port, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT), on the outskirts of Mumbai, has also been ordered to close for 24 hours, the port said in a statement.
#WATCH Cyclone Nisarga became a violent cyclone storm, 200 km from Mumbai. The cyclone is moving northeast towards Alibag in Raigad. The severe cyclonic storm is expected to cross southern Alibag between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m .: IMD Mumbai, Maharashtra; Alibag beach visuals pic.twitter.com/P2GfsecdNr
– ANI (@ANI) June 3, 2020
Zone experiencing a pandemic
The storm, which is expected to result in heavy rain, occurs while the region is struggling with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The states of Maharashtra and Gujarat reported approximately 44% of the 200,000 Indian cases of COVID-19 in the country and 61% of all deaths from the virus.
The metropolitan area of Mumbai is already struggling with the highest number of cases of coronavirus with more than 41,000 infections.
Local reports have shown an overwhelmed hospital system in Mumbai, with patients resting on the hospital floor until beds are available and bodies left in ward.
Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Balasheb Thackeray said on Twitter that residents of the vast slums of Mumbai had been ordered to evacuate, but it was not immediately clear if shelters had been set up. been put in place.
He also said that about 150 patients with coronavirus had been transferred from a hospital near the city beach.
Additional precautions are taken to avoid interruption of electrical power as thousands of patients undergo treatment in hospitals in the region, said officials from the National Disaster Assistance Force ( NDRF).
In the Palghar district of Maharashtra, more than 21,000 villagers have been evacuated, local media reported, citing officials.
Cyclones often run through densely populated Mumbai, although every year during the torrential rains of the monsoon season from June to September, the roads are overwhelmed and the commuter rail service that serves millions of people stops.
But the city has rarely been hit hard by cyclones – the last severe storm to hit the city hit in 1948, killing 12 people and injuring more than 100.
Nisarga is also expected to hit the neighboring state of Gujarat, with nearly 79,000 people due to be evacuated from coastal regions on Wednesday morning, Gujarat Relief Commissioner Harshad Patel told reporters.
Patel said 18 districts of the state would experience heavy precipitation and strong winds of up to 110 km / h (65 mph).
"Following the coronavirus epidemic, all standard operating procedures are followed in temporary shelters which have been disinfected and instructions have been issued to follow a safe distance," the agency said. release AFP Arpit Sagar, a Valsad manager.
The NDRF has mobilized 32 teams and a total of 1,500 men are ready in the two states to assist in evacuations and rescue.
Nisarga is the second cyclone to hit India in just over a week. Cyclone Amphan hit the east coast of the country on May 21, including Kolkata and neighboring Bangladesh, killing more than 100 people and leaving a trail of destruction.
Although post-monsoon flooding is common in Mumbai in the fall, some experts fear the city will not be prepared for the strong winds and storm surges that accompany a cyclone.
"There has been no test on how the city behaves in a cyclone," said Adam Sobel, a climatologist at Columbia University who studied the risk for Mumbai. "It makes me nervous."