Mumbai Escapes With Limited Damage as Weakened Storm Hits Coast
The Gateway of India arch-monument stands deserted during a lockdown imposed due to the coronavirus in Mumbai, India. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

Mumbai Escapes With Limited Damage as Weakened Storm Hits Coast

(Bloomberg) -- India’s financial capital escaped the worst as businesses remained unaffected after a severe cyclonic storm weakened following its landfall near Mumbai, a city that’s emerged as the country’s hotspot for the virus outbreak.

Cyclone Nisarga crossed the coast near Alibag in neighoring Raigad district with wind speeds as high as 120 kilometers (75 miles) per hour, according to the India Meteorological Department. It is moving northeastwards and away from the city of Mumbai, the weather office said in a statement. The city reported winds of about 15 kilometers an hour at some places.

Television pictures showed minimal damage in the mega city of more than 18 million people even as the city’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport remained shut until evening. Mumbai was due to partially reopen from Wednesday after a two-month lockdown to check the virus spread, but that was deferred until Friday due to the cyclone. About 150 patients were shifted to safer premises from a temporary Covid-19 hospital in the city as a precautionary measure.

The second cyclone to hit India in a fortnight comes at a time when the country is slowly springing back to life after nearly two months of complete shutdown as the world’s most-populous nation took stringent measures to check the spread of Covid-19. The outbreak in Mumbai has snowballed, with the city now accounting for more than a fifth of India’s over 5,800 deaths and about 207,000 infections.

About 40 teams from the National Disaster Response Force had been deployed in Maharashtra and Gujarat, while three others were ready in reserve, the agency said in a Twitter post.

Extreme weather conditions are adding to the country’s misery as the pandemic has resulted in loss of livelihood and pushed millions into poverty because of the strict stay-at-home rules. As a result, the economy is heading for its first full-year GDP drop in more than four decades.

The cyclone hasn’t affected operations at two nuclear plants in the storm-hit region so far, K.N. Vyas, India’s atomic energy secretary, said by phone. “Nuclear plants are designed to withstand incidents like these. There are standard operating procedures that need to be followed during such events,” he said, adding that all processes were being followed.

Officials said that the Mumbai Port Trust had stopped operations and asked the vessels to anchor at a safe place. State-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp Ltd. had suspended non-critical field work at the nation’s biggest producing fields off Mumbai coast, and boat operators were asked not to go near the rigs, the officials said. Helicopter services were temporarily halted, they said, adding that production continues as usual.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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