At least 100,000 people including coronavirus patients were being moved to safety as India’s west coast braced for a cyclone – the first such storm to threaten Mumbai in more than 70 years.
Authorities in India’s financial capital, which is struggling to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, evacuated nearly 150 virus patients from a recently built field hospital to a facility with a concrete roof as a precautionary measure, officials said on Tuesday.
The chief minister of Maharashtra state, Uddhav Thackeray, of which Mumbai is the capital, said people living in flimsy homes near the shore were being moved to safer places before Cyclone Nisarga made its scheduled landfall later on Wednesday.
“Slum-dwellers … in low-lying areas have been instructed to evacuate,” Thackeray’s office wrote on social media.
The temporary Covid-19 hospitalwas erected in a few weeks and is said to be able to withstand speeds of up to 80kph but not the expected wind speeds of over 100kph.
Extra generators have been delivered to hospitals in the past few days. “Everything we didn’t want to happen right now is happening,” one city official told a TV channel.
While the poor and homeless are watching cyclone’s approach with dread, so are the city’s rich and famous who have holiday homes in the neighbourhood of Alibaug, where it is expected to make landfall.
Alibaug is Mumbai’s answer to Martha’s Vineyard – a weekend getaway that is only a 15 minute speedboat ride away from the city and offers quiet beaches and solitude. Luxurious villas, set amid coconut groves right on the beach, lie directly in the path of the cyclone.
In Maharashtra’s Palghar district more than 21,000 villagers were being evacuated, local media reported, citing officials.
Mumbai has rarely faced the brunt of cyclones. The last severe storm to hit the city struck in 1948, killing 12 people and injuring more than 100.
Indian meteorologists have warned of heavy rainfall, with winds of 100-110km/h (60-70mph) and gusts of up to 120km/h capable of damaging thatched huts and power lines. Storm surges of one to two metres (3-6ft) could inundate low-lying areas of Maharashtra.
Nisarga was also expected to hit the neighbouring state of Gujarat with nearly 79,000 people to be evacuated from coastal regions by Wednesday morning, the Gujarat relief commissioner Harshad Patel said.
Patel said 18 districts across the state would experience heavy rainfall and strong winds of up to 110km/h.
“In wake of the coronavirus outbreak all standard operating procedures are being followed at the temporary shelters which have been sanitised and instructions have been issued on following safe distancing,” said Arpit Sagar, an official in Valsad.
Nisarga comes on the heels of Cyclone Amphan which killed more than 100 people when it hit eastern India and Bangladesh in May, flattening villages, destroying farms and leaving millions without electricity.
(Source: The Guardian)