Cyclone kills at least 3 in India but spares Mumbai from major damage

(Update 1: adds casualties, details)

New Delhi, Jun 3 (efe-epa).- At least three people were killed and five injured as severe cyclonic storm Nisarga hit India’s western coast on Wednesday but largely spared Mumbai, the crowded metropolis and the country’s commercial capital, from any major damage.

A 10-year boy was killed after a tree fell on him in the coastal city of Shrivardhan of Maharashtra state, of which Mumbai is the regional capital.

A man was lost his life after he was hit by a falling electric transformer in Alibaug, also in Maharashtra, an official at Raigad district collector’s office told EFE, requesting not to be named.

The official said the storm had caused widespread damage by uprooting trees and electric polls, while makeshift roofs of houses had flown away, although authorities were yet to receive full information of casualties as communications had been affected by the storm.

A 65-year old woman died and five of her family members were injured in the Khed region of the Pune district after a wall collapsed on them, district council CEO Ayush Prasad told local news agency ANI.

The India Meteorological Department said that Nisarga crossed the coast as a severe cyclonic storm between 12.20-2.30 pm near Alibaug, around 80 km south of Mumbai, with wind speeds of 100-110 kph gusting to 120 kmph.

By 6.30 pm, it had weakened to a cyclone and moved north-northeastwards towards Pune, where it again uprooted many trees and brought heavy rains, according to images circulated on social media.

Visuals shared on Twitter by the National Disaster Response Force, which has deployed 43 rescue and relief teams during the storm, also showed damages to houses and trees in the Sindhudurg district.

The IMD said that the storm was expected to further weaken into a deep depression within the next few hours. and move further north inland.

Mumbai, with a population of over 20-million, was spared major damage despite concerns related to the first cyclone to directly threaten the city in nearly a century, although heavy rains lashed the metropolis and uprooted trees.

The government of Maharashtra had put its emergency services on alert even as the state is struggling with the largest outbreak of the novel coronavirus in India.

The weather department had also warned of rough sea conditions, high waves and heavy rains accompanying the storm, triggering fears that low-lying areas of Mumbai could be flooded.

The Mumbai International Airport resumed operation around 7 pm, after suspending all flights since 2.30 pm and running only 19 services instead of the regular 50 flights daily in the times of coronavirus outbreak that has already curbed the air travel across the country.

Normal life in the city, also known as India’s entertainment capital for its thriving film industry, had been thrown out of gear due to continuous rains since Tuesday evening that has inundated several low lying areas.

As the storm moved northwards it is expected to affect the southern coast of the neighboring Gujarat state.

As a precautionary measure, an estimated 50,000 people living in flood-prone areas of Gujarat and Maharashtra had been evacuated by Wednesday morning, according to disaster relief officials.

The authorities in Mumbai had also shifted 150 Covid-19 patients from a newly built makeshift hospital to other health facilities since the new complex was located in a low-lying flood-prone area.

Cyclone Nisarga came at a critical time for these two states that have been most affected by the coronavirus pandemic in India.

The two western states account for over 90,000 confirmed cases and nearly 3,600 deaths out of a total of over 200,000 infections and more than 5,800 fatalities in the country.

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