Cyclone Nisarga made landfall at Shrivardhan in Maharashtra’s Raigad district around 12.30 pm Wednesday, raging through the coastal district for three hours, killing at least four people, uprooting trees and electricity poles, and causing power outages in many areas, including in the resort town of Alibag, but it left Mumbai mostly unscathed.
A 17-year-old boy died in a wall collapse in Shrivardhan, while a 58-year-old man died in Alibag after an electricity pole fell on him. Ten people received injuries.
“Vehicular traffic has been stopped on the Mumbai-Goa highway due to fallen trees. Five teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have been sent to help the district administration in Raigad to restore traffic and other things affected by the cyclone,” said Kishorraje Nimbalkar, Principal Secretary of Relief and Rehabilitation Department in Maharashtra.
This is the second cyclone to strike the Indian coast in two weeks, but unlike Amphan, which wreaked havoc on the eastern coast 10 days ago, Nisarga was relatively milder. This is only the second time since 1902 that a cyclone has developed over the Arabian Sea.
In Gujarat, to where the cyclone was expected to cross over from Maharashtra, the only sign of phenomenon were strong winds in the Saurashtra region and a dip in temperatures across the state. “There will be no impact of Cyclone Nisarga on Gujarat, not even high-velocity winds. Only light rainfall is expected in a few districts of South Gujarat and Saurashtra for two-three days,” said India Meteorological Department’s (IMD) Ahmedabad Regional Additional Director Manorama Mohanty.
After landfall with windspeeds of 100-110 kmph at Dive Agar in Shrivardhan, Nisarga, which had been categorised as a ‘severe cyclonic storm’, lost some momentum and weakened into a ‘cyclonic storm’ by Wednesday evening, moving northeast at a speed of 24 kmph, the IMD said.
“It is very likely to move northeastwards and weaken into a deep depression” late on Wednesday, said the IMD bulletin at 7.30 pm.
Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat announced that the district administrations in Pune, Nashik and Ahmednagar had been put on alert.
Raigad Guardian Minister and Minister of State for Tourism Aditi Tatkare said the damage assessment would have to wait as the district was still being battered by heavy rains and strong winds. Efforts were on to restore road connectivity by clearing at least one main road connecting each taluka.
Pune district reported two deaths and injuries to several people. Nearly 140 households were damaged across the district.
While a 65-year-old woman in Khed tehsil of the district died after a wall and a portion of the roof of their house caved in, a 52-year-old in Haveli tehsil died after he was critically injured while trying to hold on to the tin sheets of his roof as they were being blown away due to strong winds.
For Mumbaikars, Nisarga turned out to be the storm that wasn’t. Strong and gusty winds led to trees being uprooted in some parts of the city, but there was no large-scale damage as was expected, and more importantly, no loss of life.
Some 40,000 people living in shanties and fishing villages near the Mumbai coast were shifted to safer places after warnings of a tidal surge.
However, the surge too was not as high as was expected.
According to the IMD, the maximum wind speed recorded during the time of landfall at Colaba observatory in South Mumbai was 50 kmph and 58 kmph at Santacruz observatory. It rained intermittently, but by evening, the skies over the city had cleared.
Flight operations at Mumbai airport, suspended at 2.30 pm, were resumed by evening. MIAL, the private airport operator, had earlier announced that all operations at Mumbai International Airport would remain suspended between 2.30 pm and 7 pm as a precautionary measure.
North of Mumbai, in Palghar district, which was bracing for Nisarga to cross over it on its way to Gujarat from Maharashtra, felt no effects of the cyclone, except for some rainfall towards evening. Nearly 40,000 people had been evacuated from coastal villages into shelters, or had gone to stay with relatives inland, but started returning home in the morning.
In Raigad, Guardian minister Tatkare said the damage caused by the cyclone was not limited to Murud and Shrivardhan talukas but was felt even 50 km inland.
About 15,000 people had been evacuated from their homes near the sea in Raigad on Tuesday and were asked to either move in with relatives or provided shelter at Zilla Parishad schools, Tatkare said.
In Sindhudurg, which has three coastal districts, collector K Manjulekshmi said 82 evacuation centres had been arranged after the warning on Cyclone Nisarga but less than 100 people were required to be evacuated.
In Ratnagiri district, nearly 5,000 people were evacuated on Tuesday from coastal and low-lying areas. “Electricity poles were uprooted in some areas, affecting supply. Efforts are on to restore that,” said District Collector Laxminarayan Mishra.
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray thanked the administration for managing to keep the damage at a minimum. “Maharashtra was hit by a cyclone when we are dealing with Covid-19. While it was a big crisis, we have managed to reduce the damage caused by it. Instructions have been given to the administration to start immediate inspection of the damages,” he said in a statement.
Officials said 44,430 people from low-lying areas in Mumbai and 33,761 from other districts in Konkan were evacuated to safer locations. In all, 7,003 boats were in the sea and all were brought back by Tuesday night.
With inputs from
Sadaf Modak, ENS Ahmedabad and Pune
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