Maharashtra, Gujarat brace for Cyclone Nisarga amid COVID-19 lockdown; 'severe cyclonic storm' to make landfall near Alibaug

FP Staff

The cyclone, denominated Nisarga as per the cyclone naming system in South Asia, is set to make landfall in north Maharashtra and adjoining south Gujarat coast between Harihareshwar and Daman, close to Alibaug around noon on 3 June. It intensified into a cyclonic storm from a deep depression on Tuesday evening, said the India Meteorological Department, adding that it is likely to further strengthen into a severe cyclonic storm in the next 12 hours.

Upon landfall, Cyclone Nisarga is expected to have a speed of 105-110 kmph and is likely to cause heavy rains in south Gujarat and coastal Maharashtra, the IMD has said.

Rains in Mumbai, south Gujarat as cyclone nears land

Cyclone Nisarga has led to constant drizzling in parts of Mumbai. Areas like Parel, Mulund, Goregaon Vasai Road, Navi Mumbai reported drizzle since early evening. Districts including Palghar, Greater Mumbai, Raigad and Mumbai have been put on alert.

Meanwhile, areas like Valsad, Bhavnagar, and Amreli are also likely to receive showers overnight, IMD said.

Satellite image of Cyclone Nisarga as on 2 June 4.30 pm. IMD

Satellite image of Cyclone Nisarga as on 2 June 4.30 pm. IMD

The cyclone has been named 'Nisarga'. The name has been proposed by Bangladesh, IMD Director General Mrutunjay Mohapatra said.

According to IMD, at present, the depression is lying  300 kilometre south-southwest of Alibag, and 350 kilometres south of Mumbai. It is very likely to move north-northeastward and cross north Maharashtra and adjoining south Gujarat coast.

It will make landfall as a 'severe cyclonic storm' with a wind speed of 100-110 kmph gusting to 120 kilometres per hour.

It is likely to turn into a 'severe cyclonic storm' by Tuesday night, the Cyclone Warning Division of the IMD said, adding that the storm will cross north Maharashtra and adjoining south Gujarat coast between Harihareshwar and Daman, close to Alibaug (Raigad District, Maharashtra).

However, just before landfall, it is likely that the cyclone will start weakening and cross as Category 1 cyclone by tomorrow afternoon/evening between Mumbai and Shrivardhan in Raigad district, private weather forecasters said, although IMD is yet to confirm this.

According to the Central Water Commission (CWC), the cyclone could induce flash floods in Sindhudurg, Ratnagiri, Palghar, Thane, Mumbai and Nashik, and tidal waves in the coastal regions of north Maharashtra and south Gujarat, CNBC TV18 reported.

NDRF deploys 33 teams in Gujarat and Maharashtra

Following the forecast, thirty-three NDRF teams have been deployed in the coastal districts of Maharashtra, the chief of the federal contingency force said. Both states have been dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, with Maharashtra reporting highest cases in India, while Gujarat has the fourth highest tally of active cases.

In a video message, NDRF Director General (DG) SN Pradhan said, "Gujarat and Maharashtra have 11 and 10 teams respectively and they are being deployed in the coastal districts facing the Arabian Sea".

On Gujarat's request, five more teams are being airlifted to the state from Punjab, he said. Gujarat will have a total of 17 NDRF teams, including two on standby, and neighbouring Maharashtra 16 teams, including six on standby, he said.

"This will constitute a total of 33 teams in the two states," the officer said.

An NDRF team has a strength of about 45 personnel and each unit is equipped with tree and pole cutters, communication gadgets, inflatable boats and a small basic medical unit.

Pradhan said the teams on ground have begun the process of evacuation and have launched an awareness drive among the locals.

"Although this is not an extremely severe cyclone, all precautions are being taken with the basic principle in mind that while we expect the best, we must prepare for the worst," he said.

Gujarat to evacuate 20,000 people

Meanwhile in Gujarat, the Valsad and Navsari district administrations have started evacuating nearly 20,000 people from 47 villages located close to the state coastline, officials said on Tuesday.

Besides, in a relief to people living near the shore, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) on Tuesday indicated the cyclone may not make a landfall on the Gujarat coast. However, it will have an impact in the form of gusty winds coupled with heavy rainfall in the coastal belt, state MeT centre director Jayanta Sarkar said.

As a precautionary measure, the district administrations of Valsad and Navsari have started shifting people living near the coast to safer places.

Maharashtra prepares for Cyclone Nisarga

Flight operations in Mumbai were partially hit due to the cyclonic storm approaching the west coast. Vistara put out an advisory saying, flights to/from Mumbai and Goa are likely to be impacted.

"Please visit or SMS UK<Flight no.> to 9289228888 to check updated flight status before booking and leaving for the airport," it tweeted.

Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray has said that people who live in temporary or weak houses will be shifted to relief camps, adding that precautions will be taken during the relief and rehabilitation works, considering prevalence of COVID-19.

"Slum dwellers in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, particularly those living in low-lying areas, have been instructed to evacuate," Thackeray's office tweeted.

Mumbai administration has also shifted almost 150-200 COVID-19 patients out of the makeshift quarantine facility at MMRDA ground in BKC to NSCI Dome in Worli due to the cyclone alert.

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation put out a list of Do's and Don'ts for citizens.

Hospitals in coastal areas of the state and the Mumbai airport have been kept on high alert.

Ten teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have been deployed for rescue operations.

Meanwhile, Mumbai fishermen have been asked to return from the sea in view of impending adverse weather conditions. Coast Guards have been deployed to help fishermen reach back to the nearest harbour. 

Furthermore, News18 reported that schools, marriage halls and other open spaces have also been identified to be used as shelter homes for affected people in Maharashtra.

Elaborating on the government's preparedness for the approaching cyclonic storm, the Maharashtra CMO tweeted that an alert has been issued for Mumbai city and suburbs, Thane, Palghar, Raigad, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts.

It also said non-COVID hospitals are being made available. The state government is also taking measures to prevent power outages and is also taking precautions in chemical industries and the nuclear power plant in Palghar and Raigad districts.

"Teams are prepared to tackle the likely damage that will be caused by tree falls, landslides and heavy rainfall," the CMO said.

The control room at the mantralaya (state secretariat) is operational round the clock and instructions have been given to the Army, Air Force, Navy and the IMD to ensure coordination, Thackeray's office said.

With inputs from PTI

Also See: Cyclone Nisarga presently 430 kms south-southwest of Mumbai; follow Skymet, Windy to track cyclone's path and intensity

Cyclone Nisarga: What to do before, during and after a cyclonic storm to stay safe, secure and healthy

Cyclone Nisarga LIVE Updates: Landfall process will be complete in an hour, storm likely to move northeastwards, says IMD

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