Maharashtra, reeling under Covid-19, braces for Cyclone Nisarga’s impact
Maharashtra, which is already reeling under the highest case load of Covid-19 infections in the country — it crossed the 40,000 mark on Monday — has issued special instructions to officials to devise ways in which positive patients can be shifted to safer locations in case the cyclone makes landfall as expected on Wednesday afternoon.Updated: Jun 02, 2020 04:51 IST
Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray on Monday held a video-conference with home minister Amit Shah on the state’s preparedness for a likely severe cyclonic storm that is expected to make landfall on Wednesday in which at least 20 million people stand to be affected along the Konkan coastline, including Mumbai city.
Maharashtra state officials have snapped into disaster preparation mode as the India Meteorological Department (IMD) sounded a red alert for seven districts, including Mumbai, Thane, Palghar and Raigad on Monday, on account of a depression in the Arabian Sea that is expected to form into cyclone Nisarga, a severe cyclonic storm, on June 2 and make landfall on June 3 as well as cause heavy rainfall within inland districts till Thursday.
Shah reportedly offered Thackeray the use of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams from neighbouring states. Maharashtra has 16 teams of which 10 are deployed in areas likely to be affected including three in Mumbai, two each in Palghar and Raigad and one in Thane. Each team comprises 45 jawans, and a 24x7 control room is also expected to function out of the Mantralaya building in Mumbai. More teams may be deployed on Tuesday, as the IMD revises its bulletin based on the progress of the weather system.
Maharashtra, which is already reeling under the highest case load of Covid-19 infections in the country — it crossed the 40,000 mark on Monday — has issued special instructions to officials to devise ways in which positive patients can be shifted to safer locations in case the cyclone makes landfall as expected on Wednesday afternoon. It has also advised districts to maintain social distancing norms during the shift to relief shelters, if and when that happens. Non-Covid hospitals across the districts would be made available to tackle the disaster, a press note released by the CM’s office on Monday stated. Those living in “kaccha houses” along the coastline would also be shifted, and are being informed about the cyclone via loudspeakers, the note stated.
Thackeray has also asked the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to shift slum dwellers staying in low-lying areas of the city to safer locations. Mahesh Narvekar, chief officer of BMC disaster management cell said, “Our preparations are underway based on the regular updates from IMD authorities.”
Strict warnings have been issued to the fishing community to avoid entering the Arabian Sea and municipal officials are focusing on low-lying areas in Mumbai to determine whether Covid-19 centres would need to be re-located due to the very heavy rainfall expected over the following two days, an official said on the condition of anonymity.
Prominent low lying areas in Mumbai include Hindmata and the flower market at Dadar, Century Bazar in Worli, Lower Parel station, SV Road Sacred Heart Church in Andheri, Malad and Marol naka, among others. Many of these areas are also part of wards which have some of the highest cases in the Mumbai city.
At least 11 teams comprising officials of the fire, health and disaster management departments, as wells as 94 lifeguards are on alert, PS Rahangdale, chief fire officer of the Mumbai fire brigade and deputy municipal commissioner of the city disaster department said.
The state has an outlay of Rs 1611 crore under its State Disaster Management Fund (SDRF), from which the funds are drawn for the natural calamities such as cyclones. The central government is expected to take up a share of 75% of the outlay. According to an official from the relief and rehabilitation department, district collectors are delegated the power to use these funds in case of calamities.
“We have started making announcements near the shoreline. We have also asked power stations to be on alert in case of an emergency. All beaches will also be closed and we are also considering imposing section 144 to prevent any sort of crowding near the beaches,” Palghar district collector Kailash Shinde said.
A cyclone alert has been sounded to all residents living within three km of the coast and a list of people who need to be evacuated from the low-lying in Palghar is being prepared, said Kiran Mahajan, deputy collector (general administration) said.