Nisarga is the largest cyclone hitting Mumbai since 1948
Mumbai: At least 1,00,00 people are on evacuation while the cyclone ‘Nisarga’ hits the western cost of India. The cyclone continues its massive blow at Mumbai, country’s financial capital. It is more than 70 years since the metro city has witnessed such a devastating cyclone.
How strong is Nisarga’s impact?
Cyclone Nisarga comes as Mumbai struggles to contain the corona virus pandemic. The city is the worst hit in India, with more than 40,000 confirmed cases and almost 1,400 deaths. As per the reports from the Health Ministry, Maharashtra state is the worst affected. “Everything we didn’t want to happen right now is happening,” one city official said on national TV channels.
Reports from India Meteorological Department (IMD), the storm made landfall around 1 p.m. local time. IMD reports a wind speeds up to 68 miles per hour. Before making landfall, it strengthened over the Arabian Sea into to a Severe Cyclonic Storm in the West Pacific, the equivalent of slightly less than a Category-1 Atlantic hurricane. Flooding is the biggest threat that the cyclone may result. It is projected to rain heavily and could produce a storm surge of up to 3.3 to 6.6 feet. With the existing crowd and drainage status, this could swamp parts of Mumbai, Thane and Raigad districts.
The storm made landfall in Alibag town, south of Mumbai. Alibag is “Mumbai’s answer to Martha’s Vineyard”, as The Guardian described. It is a beach-side town where many of Mumbai’s wealthy have vacation homes. The city witnessed a perilous cyclone in 1948, when it killed 12 people and hundreds injured. However, scientists say the historically calm Arabian Sea is spawning more cyclones because of changes wrought by the climate crisis.
Why frequent cyclones in Arabian Sea?
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found that the Arabian Sea’s surface temperature was rising. Tropical cyclones tend to form over waters 30 to 33 degrees warm Celsius. This was around the surface temperature of the Arabian Sea when Nisarga formed. IMD also noted that the sea spawned more storms than normal in 2019.
“During 2019, 8 cyclonic storms formed over the Indian seas. Arabian Sea contributed 5 out of these 8 cyclones against the normal of 1 per year. This equals the previous record of 1902 for the highest frequency of cyclones over the Arabian Sea. This year also witnessed development of more intense cyclones over the Arabian Sea,” IMD reported.
These changes are now likely to have real consequences for Mumbai and the surrounding region. BBC correspondent Janhavee Moole said it had been raining in the city since Tuesday. “I can see the trees shaking violently,” Moole said. “All beaches in the city are closed to the public. A police patrol van is making announcements, asking people to stay indoors. All safety precautions possible are being taken. But, I do feel worried because the city is also in the grip of a pandemic.”