India evacuates 10,000 from homes, virus hospital ahead of cyclone

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MUMBAI, June 2, 2020 (BSS/AFP) – More than 10,000 people, including
some coronavirus patients, were moved to safer locations Tuesday as
India’s west coast braced for a cyclone, the first such storm to
threaten Mumbai in more than 70 years.

Authorities in India’s financial capital, which is struggling to
contain the pandemic, evacuated nearly 150 COVID-19 patients from a
recently built field hospital to a facility with a concrete roof as a
precautionary measure, officials said.

The chief minister of Maharashtra state, of which Mumbai is the
capital, said people living in flimsy homes near the shore were being
moved to safer places before Cyclone Nisarga makes its scheduled
landfall on Wednesday afternoon or evening.

“Slum-dwellers… in low-lying areas have been instructed to
evacuate,” Uddhav Thackeray said in a message posted by his office on
Twitter.

Mumbai has rarely faced the brunt of cyclones — the last severe
storm to hit the city struck in 1948, killing 12 people and injuring
more than 100.

Indian meteorologists have warned of heavy rainfall — with winds of
100-110 kilometres (60-70 miles) per hour and gusts of up to 120 kph
— causing damage to thatched huts, power lines and one to two
metre-high (three to 6.5 feet) storm surges inundating low-lying areas
of Maharashtra.

Nisarga is also expected to hit neighbouring Gujarat state and the
coastal region of Daman, where authorities evacuated more than 10,000
people.

“We have shifted more than 6,000 people from low-lying coastal areas
to higher ground,” said Rakesh Minhas, a senior official in Daman.

Another 4,000 people were moved out of coastal villages in Gujarat’s
Valsad and Navsari districts, officials said.

“In wake of the coronavirus outbreak, all standard operating
procedures are being followed at the temporary shelters which have
been sanitised and instructions have been issued on following safe
distancing,” Arpit Sagar, an official in Valsad, told AFP.

Nisarga comes on the heels of Cyclone Amphan, which killed more than
100 people as it ravaged eastern India and Bangladesh last month,
flattening villages, destroying farms and leaving millions without
electricity.