Cyclone Nisarga on Tuesday spared Mumbai – save some tree collapses, a few tin roofs blown off and a collective afternoon spent holding breath — as it changed course slightly, made landfall at Alibaug and moved inland towards Nashik and western Madhya Pradesh.

With that, the city managed to maintain its enviable record of not having had to face a nasty cyclone in close to 72 years, partly explaining why the Portuguese decided to call the island Bom Bahia, meaning ‘the good bay’.

Experts tracking the cyclone said Mumbai was helped by a trough, or an elongated region of relatively low atmospheric pressure, in north India, which blocked Nisarga’s movement towards the city. As a result, the eye of the storm did not pass over the city. Had that happened, wind speeds in excess of 110 kmph would have wreaked havoc in Mumbai and the Mumbai Metropolitan Region.

What the city faced was just gusty winds and rain on and off throughout the day. Colaba recorded 43 mm of rain and top wind speed of 72 kmph, while Santacruz recorded 19 mm rainfall and top wind speed of 57 kmph. Thankfully, the phases of heavy rainfall did not coincide with the hightide, a combination that has hurt the city on innumerable occasions.

Residents of Versova Koliwada were shifted to a BMC school

The winds and the rain, combined with still fresh memories of cyclone Amphan, were enough to spook the city fighting its worst pandemic. Some of the areas worst affected by the cyclone were the same that have been ravaged by the Covid crisis. The fishing colonies at Worli and Mahim – that were containment zones till a few weeks ago, with severe restrictions on the movement of its residents – were emptied out again and people moved to safer places like schools and community halls. There was resistance to the evacuation and police had to use force.

People from some slums in Kurla, especially those built on the banks of the Mithi river were also evacuated, given the riverturned-stinking-nullah’s history of flooding the neighbourhood whenever there is heavy rain. In Sion, residents of Punjabi Colony, a clutch of dilapidated buildings, also were vacated and the residents moved to cyclone shelters.

An indication of how entirely unscathed Mumbai emerged from the scare was that only three injuries were reported from across the city. The injuries were caused when some bricks, sent flying by the winds, landed on a hutment in Santacruz. Two deaths were reported in Raigad district, where authorities said large-scale damage was caused to crops. Over 90 trees fell in the city and the extended metropolitan region, some of them crashing on parked cars. There were also reports of uprooted electricity and traffic poles across the city.

Residents of Ganesh Nagar taking shelter at Fr. Agnel School (left); police evacuating people from Gita Nagar in Colaba

Residents of Ganesh Nagar taking shelter at Fr. Agnel School (left); police evacuating people from Gita Nagar in Colaba

Power outages occurred in Bhandup and Mulund in Mumbai and large parts of neighbouring Thane, Raigad and Palghar districts, with wind speeds in some of these areas touching 100 kmph.

The state-run power distribution utility Mahavitaran, which supplies power to some parts of Mumbai and a large part of metropolitan region, resorted to preventive power shutdown in areas like APMC, Sector 17, Turbhe and Kharghar in Navi Mumbai and large part of Panvel between 11.30 am and to 4.30 pm. At the time of going to press, power supply in these areas was gradually being restored.

Nisarga disrupted the city’s bruising efforts to rein in the Covid-19 virus, which has so far claimed 1417 lives and infected 43,262 people. Late on Wednesday evening, close to 800 residents of Worli-Koliwada were screened again for coronavirus infection before being sent home from cyclone shelters. Screening, contact tracing and testing efforts were disrupted as health workers could not step out in the field.

The BMC had shut its BKC Covid care centre on Tuesday as there were fears that strong winds could damage the temporary structure. Over 200 patients were moved from the BKC facility to the NSCI dome in Worli. The process of bringing them back is likely to start on Thursday or Friday. Sources said there was some seepage and minor damage to the BKC structure. “The patients will be moved back once we have taken care of these minor issues,” said a BMC officer who did not wish to be identified.

The NDRF team in a state of readiness at Dahanu beach in Palghar

The NDRF team in a state of readiness at Dahanu beach in Palghar

Flight operations at Mumbai airport, suspended at 2.20 pm, resumed around 6 pm. Adding to the airport’s woes, a cargo aircraft belonging to FedEx overshot the main runway. Though the aircraft had to be towed away, the mishap did not disrupt operations. While the Western Railway ran all its trains on time, the Central Railways diverted five trains.

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