Cyclone Nisarga: 65,000 people living close to coast of Maharashtra evacuatedUpdated: Jun 03, 2020 01:08 IST
With the Cyclone Nisarga likely to hit the coastal parts of the state on Wednesday afternoon, the authorities have evacuated more than 65,000 people living close to the coast of Maharashtra. Of them, 35,000 are in Raigad, 21,080 in Palghar, over 5,000 in Ratnagiri and 1,586 in Sindhudurg.
Seven coastal districts of Maharashtra – Sindhudurg, Ratnagiri, Raigad, Thane, Mumbai City, Mumbai Suburban and Palghar– have been put on alert. The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has deployed 20 teams – 8 teams in Mumbai, 4 in Raigad, two each in Palghar, Thane and Ratnagiri and one each in Navi Mumbai and Sindhudurg. Four teams of the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), too, have been deployed in these districts, while one NDRF team is on standby. An NDRF team comprises 35-45 jawans, depending on the severity in the region.
“Guhagar, Dapoli and Mandangad in Ratnagiri are expected to be the worst-hit. We have identified schools and colleges for evacuation and adequate stock of food grain and other essential commodities has been kept ready,” said an official from the district collectorate.
Ratnagiri collector Laxminarayan Mishra said the government will made arrangements for food and shelter for people if their houses are damaged in the cyclone before they are rehabilitated. After the change in the forecast that projected the landfall of the Cyclone Nisarga at Alibaug, instead of the earlier Harihareshwar in Raigad district, two more teams of NDRF have been deployed at Alibaug. “Two more teams of NDRF are deployed at Murud and Shrivardhan,” said Bharat Shitole, resident deputy collector of Raigad.
Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, too, appealed to citizens to not step out of their homes on Wednesday and Thursday. He asked establishments, which had started operations in the past few days, to remain shut for two days. In a notification issued on Sunday, the state had said that public gardens can open from Wednesday, but Thackeray appealed to citizens to stay indoors.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also called Thackeray. “He has assured us of help from the Centre,” Thackeray said in his live address to citizens. He asked citizens to take precautions. “Keep your phones and emergency lights charged. Keep all your essentials, including medicines, at a safe, accessible place. Make sure you store drinking water and avoid unnecessary usage of electricity, as there might be chances of a power cut owing to heavy rain,” he said. He also asked citizens to not venture near dilapidated buildings or temporary sheds and identify a corner in the house where they can take refuge during gusty winds.
He asked citizens to collect loose items near the house and tie it together or keep it at home, so it doesn’t cause any mishap.
Meanwhile, the Palghar district collectorate has identified 21 villages that are vulnerable and 21,080 of its residents are expected to be evacuated. “Most of the families are shifting to their relatives’ homes in safer areas. We have identified 85 places for evacuation and have made adequate arrangements,” said Kiran Mahajan, resident deputy collector.
Lokesh Chandra, divisional commissioner, Konkan division, said, “The evacuation will be completed late by Tuesday night. The 13 fishing boats that are deep in the sea are expected to return by late night. We have deployed 13 NDRF teams in these districts, five of them are in Raigad and two in Palghar.”
Need for social distancing owing to the pandemic may add to the challenge for the NDRF. Anupam Srivastava, NDRF Maharashtra commandant, said each jawan has been provided with a “rescuer Covid kit”, which includes a hand wash, soap, gloves, face masks and shields. They have also been provided with two biological suits, one which can be disposed of and one which can be washed. “It will be a difficult rescue operation, but we are well-prepared,” Srivastava said.
NDRF teams have been conducting briefings with people to explain the damage possible from the cyclone. Five additional NDRF teams from Vishakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh will also be airlifted and deployed in Mumbai by Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning, a senior commander from NDRF said. Officials said the Indian Coast Guard ships, aircraft and on-shore stations are continuously relaying warnings about the impending adverse weather to marine vessels and fishermen.
On Tuesday, NDRF men also briefed citizens living near the coast to be alert and prepared for the cyclone. “These are people who have lived near the sea for generations. They say we have already seen these events, so it is a little difficult to convince them, but we are trying our best. We have started evacuation in Alibaug, Palghar and Sindhudurg,” Srivastava said. “Besides village-level meetings and appeal over public address system, we have formed teams of senior officials to oversee the evacuation and mitigation operation,” said Shitole.
The state government has released special funds to all district collectors for relief measures. “The district collectors have been directed to undertake evacuation operation in low-lying areas that are expected to be hit the most. Machinery has been geared up in all seven districts,” said Abhay Yavalkar, director disaster management units.
The state has directed evacuation of people living in kutcha, semi pucca and houses with metal roof sheets, along with their livestock. Most district collectors have imposed curfew for the next three days in the tehsils expected to be hit by the cyclone.
The state cabinet met on Tuesday to discuss the impending threat of the cyclone and the measures being taken to combat it. The disaster management unit made a presentation at the meeting. “We have requested the Centre to keep the additional teams of NDRF from the neighbouring states on standby. The authorities have also been directed to ensure that Covid-19 and non-Covid hospitals do not suffer. The power supply authorities have been directed to arrange for generators for the hospital for uninterrupted health services. The cabinet was also informed that except the field hospital at Bandra-Kurla Complex, the newly erected Covid-19 field hospitals at Worli, Goregaon are safe and can sustain the cyclone as they are in pucca structures,” said a government official from the relief and rehabilitation department.
Palghar district officials on Tuesday also released an order to shut shops, commercial establishments on Wednesday. It has also asked chemical factories to take precautions and practise “safe shutdown” on account of the cyclone. A state government advisory to citizens also assured that the nuclear plant at Tarapur in Palghar is safe and can withstand the impact of cyclone.