India’s western coast and financial capital Mumbai are braced for the first cyclone in a century as cases of coronavirus continue to surge.
Police encouraged people away from a beach as rain began to fall. Homes in a nearby slum had been left and locked up, and municipal officials patrolled the streets, ordering people to stay inside.
Nisarga was forecast to drop heavy rain and bring sustained winds of 68mph when it makes landfall as a severe cyclone about 60 miles south of Mumbai, India’s Meteorological Department said.
The state of Goa, south of Maharashtra, already received five inches of torrential rain — about a week’s average — as the cyclone moved along the coast, the meteorological agency said.
Some 100,000 people were evacuated from low-lying areas in Maharashtra and neighbouring Gujarat, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.
Both states, already among the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, activated disaster response teams, fearing extensive flooding could further impair overwhelmed health systems.
“If hospitals and clinics are damaged by the cyclone, the city won’t be able to cope with the large number of Covid-19 cases, and social distancing measures will become virtually impossible to follow,” said Bidisha Pillai, chief executive of Save the Children in India.
The cyclone also threatened to worsen prospects for an economic turnaround as a nine-week-long government-imposed coronavirus lockdown began to ease this week. India has reported more than 200,000 cases and 5,800 deaths due to the virus.
Nisarga comes just two weeks after Cyclone Amphan tore through the Bay of Bengal on India’s east coast and battered West Bengal state, killing more than 100 people in India and neighbouring Bangladesh.