Cyclone 'Nisarga' will make landfall along the Maharashtra coast on Wednesday with wind speed ranging up to 100-110 kmph, gusting to 120 kmph, besides heavy rainfall and storm and storm surges of 1-2 metres in Mumbai and other coastal areas of the state, said the Home Ministry in a statement on Tuesday.
The storm is likely to impact Mumbai, Thane and other coastal districts like Raigad and Palghar along with Valsad, Navsari, Surat, Bhavnagar and Bharuch districts of Gujarat and Union Territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu.
"Met updates at 10.30pm, June 2. Mumbai and around rainfall since evening. Now its picked up intensity," said IMD's Mumbai Deputy Director General of Meteorology KS Hosalikar.
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) earlier in the day said the cyclone is very likely to intensify into a "severe cyclonic storm" over the next 12 hours and cross Maharashtra and south Gujarat coast on Wednesday afternoon. It has predicted moderate rainfall in most parts of the metropolis and heavy to very heavy rainfall in isolated places over the next 24 hours.
Preparations for the impending cyclone were discussed at a meeting of the National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC), headed by Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba, said the statement from the ministry.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke with the chief ministers of Maharashtra and Gujarat and assured them of all help from the Centre. He also spoke with the administrator of Daman and Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli Praful K Patel, said a statement from the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).
Maharashtra and Gujarat on alert
In a televised address, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said it was likely to be more severe than cyclonic storms in the past, and asked people to stay alert.
The NDRF has deployed 40 teams in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu. Additional teams are also being airlifted. Rescue and relief teams of the Indian Army and the Indian Navy along with ships and aircrafts of the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force have been put on standby. Ships of the Indian Coast Guard are already engaged in rescuing fishermen at sea.
In Gujarat, the administration has started evacuating over 78,000 people from four districts close to the coastline, officials said on Tuesday. Thirteen teams of the NDRF and six of the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) have been deployed at different locations, said Relief Commissioner Harshad Patel.
As many as 78,971 persons living near the seashore in Valsad, Surat, Navsari and Bharuch districts are being shifted to safer locations, he said. Patel said the administration has identified 140 buildings to be utilised as temporary shelters for the evacuees in these four districts.
In relief to people living near the shore, the IMD indicated the cyclone may not make a landfall on the Gujarat coast.
Bulk SMS facility provided by Telecom Department was being used to warn residents likely to be affected by the cyclone and evacuation of people was also underway.
The states and central agencies have been told that special efforts may be made to ensure that essential medical services to COVID patients are not disrupted. Agencies were also directed to activate contingency plans to ensure safety of power, telecommunication, nuclear, chemical, aviation and shipping infrastructure and assets.
DGCA issues guidelines
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation issued a circular to airlines and pilots on Tuesday, reiterating its guidelines on adverse weather operations as Cyclone Nisarga approaches Maharashtra and Gujarat.
"Domestic aviation activities have recently been started after a period of two months. Operators and individuals have a challenge at hand in restarting flying after a prolonged period of non-flying and the associated weather at this time of the year across India," said the DGCA in the circular.
Operations at the Mumbai airport, which has been handling 50 domestic flights daily since May 25, are likely to be significantly affected on Wednesday due to the cyclone. Airport operator MIAL on Tuesday said it has taken various measures to safeguard passengers and the aircraft at the aerodrome.
'Stay inside for two days'
The Maharashtra CM said all efforts were being made to ensure there was no loss of life due to the cyclone, with the Army, Navy and Air Force on stand-by. Thackeray also elaborated on 'do's and don'ts' in the situation.
"The cyclone could be more severe than the other storms....Tomorrow and the day after are crucial in coastal areas," he said.
"Activities which had resumed (as part of easing of lockdown to contain coronavirus) will be kept shut there for the next two days in view of the cyclone....it is in our interest that people remain alert and inside their homes," he said.
"All the fishermen have been contacted. In Palghar, some fishermen were not reachable till afternoon, but were contacted later. We will bring them back in time. Nobody should venture into the sea for the next two days," he said.
Power supply may be disconnected if it rains heavily, he said, and warned people against using electrical appliances when not needed. Important documents in home should be kept safe and battery-operated devices like mobile phones should be charged, he said.
"Don't believe rumours and don't spread rumours. Follow the instructions aired by Doordarshan and Akashvaani," he said.
(With inputs from PTI)