Cyclone Nisarga: Coronavirus patients among the 100,000 evacuated

Rory Sullivan
People help elderly citizens during an evacuation from a Mumbai slum: REUTERS

The first cyclone in more than a century to hit India's financial capital of Mumbai appeared to have largely spared the metropolis on Wednesday.

According to the Press Trust of India news agency, 100,000 people in the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat - including coronavirus patients - have now been moved to higher ground as a precaution.

No deaths or major damages were reported as workers began clearing fallen trees and other debris from affected areas along India's western coastline.

But there are fears that the cyclone may damage vital health infrastructure, at a time when the city tries to deal with a large number of coronavirus cases.

Bidisha Pillai, chief executive of Save the Children in India, said in a statement: "If hospitals and clinics are damaged by the cyclone, the city won't be able to cope with the large number of Covid-19 cases, and social distancing measures will become virtually impossible to follow.”

As well as potentially damaging the city’s ability to tackle the pandemic, the cyclone also threatens the city’s economic prospects as it began to ease out of a 9-week lockdown.

About 10,000 city residents were evacuated from their homes, municipal officials said. With powerful storms a rarity, there were no pre-existing cyclone shelters, and many of the city's large and sturdy buildings have already been converted into coronavirus isolation or treatment facilities, National Disaster Response Force spokesman Krishan Kumar said.

"We moved people to other strong buildings where there is a supply of water," he told AP.

India has so far recorded almost 200,000 Covid-19 infections and 5,598 deaths from the virus.

Cyclone Nisarga comes only a fortnight after Cyclone Amphan killed more than 80 people in India and Bangladesh.

With additional reporting by AP

Read more

Lives torn apart as Cyclone Amphan leaves devastation in Bay of Bengal