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Cyclone Nisarga charts course for little-tested western coast

The cyclone could make landfall on the north Maharashtra and south Gujarat coast between Harihareshwar and Daman, close to Alibagh in Raigarh district in the afternoon on 3 June. (Satyabrata Tripathy/HT)Premium
The cyclone could make landfall on the north Maharashtra and south Gujarat coast between Harihareshwar and Daman, close to Alibagh in Raigarh district in the afternoon on 3 June. (Satyabrata Tripathy/HT)

  • The forecast last received said Nisarga was recurving towards the coast after moving north for a while
  • Kerala has readied hundreds of shelter homes, taking lessons from 2018 and 2019 floods

India’s western coast is expected to witness heavy flooding and strong winds as tropical cyclone Nisarga makes a landfall on Wednesday, said India Meteorological Department (IMD). The storm over the Arabian Sea is veering towards one of the most densely populated swathes of land in the country, from Kerala’s Thiruvananthapuram to Maharashtra’s Mumbai, and northwards, with wind speeds of 100-110 km per hour, and gusts up to 120km per hour, said IMD.

The cyclone could make landfall on the north Maharashtra and south Gujarat coast between Harihareshwar and Daman, close to Alibagh in Raigarh district in the afternoon. On its route, it is predicted to damage low-lying areas and cause flooding. The state government has deployed 10 teams of the National Disaster Response Force for rescue operations, chief minister Uddhav Thackeray said.

IMD sounded a red warning for the coastal areas of Maharashtra and Gujarat, asking them to be prepared for a flood-like situation in some districts. Heavy rains were reported on Tuesday in Kerala, and as many as four districts were issued the orange alert by the IMD for floods, while eight others were issued the yellow alert. Taking its lessons from the damaging floods of 2018 and 2019 in Kerala, state authorities have readied hundreds of shelter homes.

Maharashtra will be affected severely by Nisarga, especially Mumbai. The recklessly developed financial capital of India may not be prepared for such a storm, experts said. Low-lying areas of Mumbai, Thane and Raigad could get inundated for up to 1-1.5km with a storm surge of 1-2 metres above the astronomical tides, said IMD. Storm surges of 0.5-1 metre above the astronomical tide are expected in low-lying areas of Ratnagiri district at landfall. “Coastal cities like Mumbai are rendered more vulnerable, because of the topography. It is an island city and the combined effect of storm surge and heavy rains at the same time, could lead to heavy flooding, especially if there is a high tide," said M.V. Ramana Murthy, director, National Centre for Coastal Research, Chennai

The developments could strike a double blow as the states are already struggling to contain the covid-19 pandemic. Maharashtra has more than 70,000 cases and Kerala over 700. The latest forecast suggests the cyclone has already begun to recurve towards the west coast after moving northwards for a while. “It is likely to cross the west coast as a severe cyclonic storm and weaken thereafter," said M. Mohapatra, director general of meteorology, IMD, New Delhi.

Kalpana Pathak contributed to this story.

nidheesh.m@livemint.com

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