New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: COVID-hit Mumbai escaped the brunt of the severe cyclonic storm Nisarga as it moved further southeast of Alibaug and also weakened into a 'cyclonic storm' in the evening. The cyclone will further weaken into a deep depression by late night, the IMD bulletin said.

No major damage has been reported from Mumbai even as a 58-year-old man was killed after a power transformer collapsed on him due to the heavy winds in Raigad district. Two people died and three were injured in two separate cyclone-related incidents in Pune district, an official said.

In Gujarat too, the cyclonic storm passed without any major incident and casualties, said state relief commissioner Harshad Patel.

A Times of India report quoted experts saying that had the storm moved towards the north instead, it could have badly battered Mumbai and adjoining areas.

The process of landfall, which began at 12.30 PM at Alibaug, had completed by 2.30 pm. By 4 pm, the cyclone had started weakening with wind speeds of 90-100 kilometres per hour.

The storm currently lays over Raigad and Pune districts. The current wind speed of the storm has also reduced to 65-75 kilometres per hour, the IMD said in a bulletin at 6.30 PM.

Although the cyclone made the landfall just 95 kilometres from Mumbai, the metropolitan city largely escaped its wrath.

Thousands of people had been evacuated in coastal Maharashtra and south Gujarat, trains rescheduled, flights cancelled and fishermen ordered out of the seas as the region braced for the cyclone.

Already down on its knees from the raging COVID-19 pandemic, Mumbai was facing a cyclone for the first time in 72 years, Adam Soebel, a professor of atmospheric science at Columbia University in New York, tweeted.

National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) chief SN Pradhan tweeted video clips showing showing trees swaying, electricity poles toppling amid strong winds and heavy rain.

Heavy rainfall was reported all along Maharashtra coast as well as in North Maharashtra and Pune. Heavy downpour was witnessed in Raigad and Alibaug. 

The Central Railway (CR) rescheduled special trains. These included five special trains departing from Mumbai which were either diverted or regulated enroute. 

The flight operations at the Mumbai airport were suspended till 7 pm, but later resumed at 6 pm as the cyclone weakened. MIAL, the private airport operator, had earlier scheduled a total of 19 flights for Wednesday, which include 11 departures and eight arrivals to be operated by five airlines -- Air India, IndiGo, SpiceJet, GoAir and AirAsia India.

The IMD had said kuccha houses, trees, electric poles may fall as they may not be able to withstand the speed of the storm. However, as the cyclone weakened into a depression, it was clear that the extent of damage was far lesser than anticipated.

Maharashtra and Gujarat had activated their disaster response mechanism, deploying NDRF teams and evacuating people from areas in the cyclone's path.

Authorities in Gujarat had shifted over 63,700 people living close to the coast in eight districts to safer places as a precautionary measure, an official said.

All fishing boats which were out in the sea off Palghar coast in Maharashtra returned before the landfall, an official said.

As many as 577 fishing boats from Palghar had gone out in the sea and till Monday evening, 564 came back. Later, help was sought from the Coast Guard, Navy and the fisheries department and the remaining 13 boats also returned to the shore late Tuesday evening.

The threat posed by Nisarga to Mumbai has lessened, but the next few hours will be crucial, Maharashtra Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat said.

Authorities in Pune, Nashik and Ahmednagar are on alert considering the trajectory of the cyclone, he said. "Though the threat posed to Mumbai by the cyclone has
reduced, the next few hours will be quite crucial. The cyclone can have influence over an average of 200 km from its eye," the minister tweeted.

Ahead of the cyclone landfall, carnivorous animals in Mumbai zoo were shifted to holding areas in their enclosures to keep them safe from rain and strong winds, an official said.

Since the city has been experiencing rain, authorities at the Veermata Jijabai Udyan, also popularly known as Byculla Zoo which is spread over an area of 50 acres, took all steps to protect the animals against the rough weather, he said.

Tigers, leopards and hyenas were shifted to holding areas, an official from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said. 

(With inputs from agencies)

Posted By: Abhinav Gupta