Cyclonic storm Nisarga, set to make landfall at Alibaug in Raigad district in the afternoon, hovered over the Arabian Sea, around 165 km south-southwest of the coastal town and 215 km south-southwest of Mumbai at dawn, a senior IMD official said on Wednesday.
India Meteorological Department (IMD) Mumbai’s deputy director general of meteorology KS Hosalikar said the cyclone would cross close to south of Alibaug as severe cyclonic storm 100-110 kmph gusting at 120 kmph.
“Cyclonic Storm NISARGA over Arabian Sea at 0530 hrs of today 03 Jun, abt 165 km ssw of Alibagh, 215 km ssw of Mumbai. To cross close to south of Alibagh (Raigad District, Maharashtra) during the afternoon of today the 03rd June as a SCS, 100-110, gust 120 kmph, afternoon,” he tweeted.
In another tweet, he said Mumbai city received moderate rainfall of 20 mm to 40 mm, while there was light rainfall in other parts of the megapolis during the past 12 hours.
He reiterated heavy rain warnings for Mumbai and neighbouring districts like Thane, Raigad and Palghar.
“Today on 3 Jun heavy rainfall warnings for Mumbai, Thane, Raigad and Palghar are already issued in view of cyclone. High winds, very rough sea,” he said on the micro-blogging site.
In an earlier tweet, the official said that at 2.30 am on Wednesday, the cyclonic storm hovered over Arabian Sea about 280 km west-northwest of Panjim (Goa), 250 km south-southwest of Mumbai and 200 km south-southwest of Alibaug.
He said it is very likely to intensify into a severe cyclonic storm during the next few hours.
“Wind reported at 0630 hours IST of 03.06.2020 Goa-33 kmph, Ratnagiri-33 mkmph, Colaba-33 kmph, Santacruz-09, Dahanu-07 kmph,” the IMD tweeted.
Bracing for the impact of what is being billed as the most severe cyclone to hit Mumbai, the Central Railway (CR) rescheduled special trains and many airlines also cancelled their Mumbai operations.
The CR has rescheduled, diverted and regulated some trains on Wednesday, an official said. These include five special trains departing from Mumbai. Three special trains would be either divetred or regulated enroute, he added.
With the cyclone set to make landfall on Wednesday, Maharashtra and Gujarat activated their disaster response mechanism, deploying NDRF teams and evacuating people from areas likely to be hit.
As a precautionary measure, the NDRF has evacuated around 1,500 people staying in a shelter at Thal near Alibaug, an official said. The teams also evacuated people from Uttan and Mira Bhayandar, he added.
The teams conducted a recce of Palghar and Raigad coast early on Wednesday, the official said.
Maharashtra and Gujarat, already battling a raging pandemic, which has put their health infrastructure under severe strain, have opened new fronts to tackle the fallout of the cyclone.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to their chief ministers on Tuesday and assured them all possible help from the Centre.
Ten teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have been deployed in parts of Maharashtra for rescue operations in view of the cyclonic storm, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said.
An alert has been issued for Mumbai city and suburbs, Thane, Palghar, Raigad, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts.
Town planning authority MMRDA said nearly 150 patients at its COVID facility in Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) in Mumbai were shifted as a precaution ahead of the cyclone.
The Navy has kept five flood teams and three diving teams on stand-by in Mumbai, the official said.
These teams, trained and equipped for rescue operations, are stationed at various naval areas across Mumbai and can provide early response over a larger area, he said.
“We have evacuated more than 3,500 people from koliwadas (fishermen colonies) and temporary houses to safer structures like schools, community halls and government buildings,” Superintendent of Police, Raigad, Anil Paraskar, said.
Mumbai hasn’t “experienced a serious cyclone landfall since 1891”, according to Adam Sobel, professor of atmospheric science at Columbia University.
Mumbai experienced severe floods in 2005, and more recently in 2017 and 2019, but none of them were due to cyclones.