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A man cycles in front of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus amid rains in Mumbai, Monday (Photo: PTI)
A man cycles in front of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus amid rains in Mumbai, Monday (Photo: PTI)

Mumbai readies disaster response teams as it braces for cyclone Nisarga

  • Though Mumbai is not new to heavy rainfall but the rising number of coronavirus cases in the city has given a new dimension to its recurring tryst with water logging and transport disruption

MUMBAI: Authorities in Mumbai are racing against time for heavy rainfall likely due to tropical cyclone, Nisarga, along the coast of Maharashtra that is expected to make landfall by Wednesday.

Senior government officials told Mint that around 200 disaster response and rescue teams are on standby to respond to potential crises situations due to the cyclone, which may generate wind speeds of up to 125 kilometre per hour along with heavy rains.

Though Mumbai is not new to heavy rains but the rising number of covid-19 cases in the city has given a new dimension to its recurring tryst with water logging and transport disruption.

“We are watching the situation and expecting very heavy rainfall of over 12 cm on 3 June and 4 June in Mumbai," KS Hosalikar, deputy director general at India Meteorological Department (IMD) Mumbai, told Mint.

“Mumbai received its first rain in form of light showers on Sunday night. All the coastal districts of Maharashtra, from Sindhudurg to Palghar, have been alerted about the cyclonic storm-like system developing on the Arabian Sea," he added.

Prabhat Rahangdale, deputy municipal commissioner (Disaster Management), MCGM, said: “Nearly 200 teams are on standby for flood rescue and any kind of disaster in slums and societies near the shoreline. We are fully prepared for any life-threatening situation that may arise due to heavy rains."

The IMD’s latest cyclone track shows that Nisarga will brush by the Mumbai coast. In the past, depressions at this time in the Arabian Sea generally veer towards the coast of Oman and the Gulf of Aden. A landfall along India’s Konkan coast would be devastating, much like the recent Cyclone Amphan that killed 84 people along India’s eastern shoreline and Bangladesh, leaving roads flooded and 14 million people without power.

While heavy rains and floods are a recurrent problem in Mumbai during the monsoon season, this time around the challenges are manifold as the city’s slums, usually located along creeks and in low-lying areas, are not just prone to floods and vector-borne diseases but have also become hotspots for the spread of the novel coronavirus this year. “The problem with rains hitting the city sooner than expected is that this will lead to more fever cases, even if they are simple virals, so there will be some confusion in how to separate this from covid-19 cases," Dr Shivkumar Utture, President, Maharashtra Medical Council, told Mint. “We don’t have the required testing facilities and beds to admit patients already and problems brought with changes in weather are likely to make this worse."

“We are doing our best to reduce monsoon-related diseases. We have deployed more than double the number of teams compared to last year and have sanitized and sprayed insecticides at over 1 lakh premises, including those where covid-19 positive were detected, home quarantine premises and over 12,000 municipal premises," said Suresh Kakani, additional municipal commissioner (health). MCGM. “We are trying to ramp up beds at health facilities solely dedicated to covid-19 patients, so that other public and private health facilities can absorb non-covid patients. Some facilities will be exclusively reserved for vector-borne and seasonal diseases so that patients are not turned down at hospitals," he added.

As of May 31, Maharashtra’s covid-19 tally reached 67,655 confirmed cases.

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