New Delhi, Jun 3 (efe-epa).- Cyclone Nisarga hit the western coast of India on Wednesday, bringing along strong winds and heavy rainfall in the region around Mumbai, the country’s financial capital and it’s most populous city with over 20 million people.
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) said the storm in the Arabian Sea had a wind speed of 74 km per hour (46 miles per hour) at 12:30 pm local time.
“Landfall process started and it will be completed during next 3 hours. The northeast sector of the eye of severe cyclonic storm ‘Nisarga’ is entering into land,” IMD said in a tweet.
It warned that the cyclone was expected to hit Mumbai with winds gusting up to 120 km per hour, equivalent of a category 1 hurricane.
The government of Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is the capital, has 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 has 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 curtailed its flight operations and said it would operate only 19 incoming and outgoing flights instead of regular 50 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, has been thrown out of gear due to continuous rains since Tuesday evening that has inundated several low lying areas.
The city police have issued prohibitory orders to ensure people don’t step out to the seafronts, promenades, or beaches and other open spaces.
The police said it had banned gathering of four or more people in the city from last midnight to Jun.4.
“Refrain from venturing out to coast-beaches, promenade, parks, and other similar places along the coastline,” the police wrote on Twitter.
The storm is also 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 have been evacuated, according to disaster relief officials.
The authorities in Mumbai have 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 comes at a critical time for the 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.
Nisarga is the second cyclonic storm to hit India in less than a month and comes close on the heels of Cyclone ‘Amphan’ that killed nearly 90 people when it hit eastern India and Bangladesh on May 20. EFE-EPA