By Venkatesh Raghavan*
Mumbai: As alerts kept pouring in on the advent of cyclone Nisarga on the western coast of Maharashtra, at around 12.30 pm. the landfall commenced. It was just 40 km away from Alibaug. Its distance from Mumbai was around 95 km. The process of landfall started around 12.30 pm.
The thick cloud cover that had darkened the skies over Nanded an Usmanabad of the Marathwada region, also ominously covered the Raigad district that falls in coastal Maharashtra.
The IMD announced that a little beyond 3.30 p.m. the landfall will hit the neighboring townships of Mumbai and Thane. The Met department also disclosed that the cyclone had a windspeed of 100 to 110 kilometres per hour at the time it neared the Alibaug coast.
The city police including their traffic staff quickly stepped in and suspended movement of vehicles over the Bandra-Worli sea link as a preventive measure.
Also read: Nisarga makes Mumbai nervous
Stating in its tweet the Mumbai police reassured that they were taking all possible precautions to avert any damage the cyclone may cause.
The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) was also pressed into service across the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat. In all there were 43 NDRF teams of which 21 teams are operational in Maharashtra. Speaking on the scope of the operations carried out so far, the Director General of NDRF SN Pradhan disclosed that over a lakh of people have been evacuated from the spots the cyclone is predicted to hit.
News pouring in from the coastal areas stated the NDRF teams were active in effecting swift evacuations in both Gujarat and Maharashtra. While Palgarh and Raigad received special attention from the NDRF, Navsari and Valsad areas of Gujarat were also promptly evacuated. The southern tip of Coastal Mumbai, Colaba was faced with wind speeds of 72 kms per hour owing to the cyclone nearing Alibaug.
The Mumbai end of the operations that is being supervised by the local police informed that a disaster management plan has been activated and the constabulary has been pressed in to service from Tuesday evening when the reports of the cyclone started pouring.
Pranay Ashok, DCP operations spoke to the media about the elaborate preparations. The city police are using the public announcement system to alert the citizens by advising them to stay indoors. The policemen on duty also ensured that people living in the low-lying areas of the city which were prone to flooding got shifted to safe homes. Pranay also informed that all police personnel were equipped with raincoats and emergency lights.
Paraphernalia kept ready for flowing into swift action in case of emergencies include hammers, hacksaws, ropes, life jackets, and tree cutting tools.
The fire brigade officials in collaboration with the BMC have chalked out details about traffic diversions. In addition, two units of the NDRF have already arrived to take charge of the situation. Move has been made to prevent people from accessing coasts, promenades, beaches and sea faces. Social media platforms like Twitter are pressed into service to advice people to stay indoors.
The Armed forces, including the Navy and Air Force are on full alert and ready to launch any rescue operations if required in tandem with the BMC’s disaster management cell. At present, there is a balancing act being maintained between the swift evacuation of low-lying areas and ensuring social distancing norms offset by the Coronavirus.
*The writer is a Mumbai-based journalist and novelist. He is the author of bestseller thriller, Operation Drug Mafia (Times Group Books).