Cyclone Nisarga with strong winds makes landfall on India's western coast

Clay Curtis
June 3, 2020

Cyclone Nisarga, which is approaching from the south-west, would be the first serious cyclone to make landfall in the city since 1891.

The evacuees include almost 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, with around a fifth of India's cases.

More than 100,000 other people were evacuated from the western states of Maharashtra and Gujarat.

The local government said people living in flimsy homes near the shore were being moved. "But Mumbai may experience bad weather until tomorrow", Madhavan Rajeevan, secretary at the Ministry of Earth Sciences, told Reuters on Wednesday.

The storm moved away from the city across Maharashtra state with its wind speed slowing to 85 km/h.

"If hospitals and clinics are damaged by the cyclone, the city won't be able to cope with the large number of COVID-19 cases, and social distancing measures will become virtually impossible to follow", Bidisha Pillai, chief executive of Save the Children in India, said in a statement.

Although post-monsoon flooding is common in Mumbai in the fall, some experts fear the city is not prepared for the strong winds and storm surges that come with a cyclone.

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In Mumbai, authorities shifted 150 patients from newly built makeshift Covid-19 hospital to other hospitals as the new structure was located in low-lying area.

"The evacuation is almost complete".

"We are continuously monitoring the situation and will consider restarting global flights as soon as situation normalises a bit and poses no danger to our citizens".

Mumbai has not been hit by a cyclone in more than 70 years, raising concerns about its readiness.

In a televised address, Thackeray asked people to stay alert as the storm is expected to hit the state's coastal belt on Wednesday afternoon, and shared a list of "do's and dont's" in the situation.

Nisarga comes on the heels of Cyclone Amphan, which killed more than 100 people as it ravaged eastern India and Bangladesh last month, flattening villages, destroying farms and leaving millions without electricity.

The frequency of cyclones in the Arabian Sea is predicted to increase, said Adam Sobel, a climate scientist at Columbia University. Much more frequent and intense cyclones have been appearing over a shorter time in recent years due to climate change, he said.

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