Cyclone Nisarga slams Maha coast as Mumbai, south Guj brace for nature's fury

(Eds: with corrections in para 4,5) Mumbai/Ahmedabad, Jun 3 (PTI) Cyclone Nisarga made landfall in Raigad district, south of Mumbai, with wind speeds of up to 120 kmph on Wednesday, after thousands of people were evacuated in Mumbai, coastal Maharashtra and south Gujarat.

Flight operations at the Mumbai airport were suspended till 7 pm.

Already down on its knees from the raging COVID-19 pandemic, Mumbai was facing a cyclone for the first time in 72 years, Adam Soebel, a professor of atmospheric science at Columbia University in New York, tweeted.

Trees and electricity poles were uprooted in Maharashtra's Raigad district as Nisarga blew in from the Arabian Sea, making landfall at the coastal town of Alibaug at around 12.30 pm.

The process would finish by 4 pm, weather officials had predicted in the afternoon.

Steeped in colonial history, Alibaug is a quaint little town located about 110 km from Mumbai, and is dotted with sandy beaches, unpolluted air, several forts and temples.

Nisarga, which is also expected to pummel the coastline of Gujarat besides Maharashtra, comes a week after Cyclone Amphan wreaked havoc in West Bengal.

India Meteorological Department (IMD) Mumbai's deputy director general of meteorology K S Hosalikar had said earlier in the day that Mumbai, Thane, Raigad and Palghar on Maharashtra's coast will be hit with winds of up to 100 kmph to 110 kmph.

Heavy rainfall was reported all along Maharashtra coast as well as in North Maharashtra and Pune.

The Central Railway (CR) rescheduled special trains.

These included five special trains departing from Mumbai which will be either diverted or regulated enroute, an official said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Maharashtra and Gujarat chief ministers on Tuesday and assured them all possible help from the Centre.

Ten teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have been deployed in parts of Maharashtra for rescue operations , Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said.

Town planning authority MMRDA said nearly 150 patients at its COVID facility in Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) in Mumbai were shifted as a precaution ahead of the cyclone.

The Navy has kept five flood teams and three diving teams on stand-by in Mumbai, the official said.

Flight operations at the Mumbai airport will remain shut till 7 pm on Wednesday as a preventive step, Mumbai International Airport Ltd (MIAL) said. 'Considering the strong crosswinds, it has been decided that no arrivals and departures will take place between 2.30 pm and 7 pm,' MIAL said in a statement.

As per the IMD, the landfall process started around 12.30 pm near Alibaug, 95 kms from Mumbai.

'The right side of the wall cloud passes through coastal region of Maharashtra, mainly the Raigad district. It will gradually enter into Mumbai and Thane districts during the next three hours,' the IMD said in a statement.

Over 40,000 people living near the coast in Mumbai were shifted to safer places, said the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).

Mumbai Police also said that hundreds of people living in areas near sea shores like Colaba in South Mumbai, Worli and Dadar in Central Mumbai, and Juhu and Versova in Western Mumbai were shifted to safer places.

Three members of a family were injured when cement blocks fell on their shanty from under-construction building in suburban Santacruz in Mumbai due to gusty winds.

No untoward incident had been reported in southern coast of Gujarat as of Wednesday evening, Gujarat Relief Commissioner Harshad Patel told reporters.

Authorities have so far shifted more than 63,700 people living close to the coast in eight districts to safer places as a precautionary measure, he said.

'Wind speed remained normal in Valsad and Navsari districts, located close to the Arabian Sea. However, the wind speed may increase up to 60 to 70 kmph in the next three hours as the cyclone is moving towards north-east Maharashtra,' he said.

While 33,680 of them were evacuated from Valsad district, 14,400 people were evacuated in Navsari, 8,727 in Surat, 3,066 in Bhavnagar, 2,086 in Amreli, 1,2020 in Bharuch, 761 in Anand and 228 in Gir-Somnath.

18 teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and six teams of State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) have been deployed at different locations. PTI ENM DC KK GK IAS ANS PJT PD NSK KRK KRK KRK