Cyclone Nisarga made landfall at around 1 p.m. local time (3:30 a.m. ET) with wind speeds of up to 110 kph (68 mph), according to the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD).
The cyclone, which formed in the Arabian sea on Tuesday morning, hit Alibag town, south of Mumbai.
Ahead of landfall, the cyclone strengthened to the equivalent of just below a Category 1 Atlantic hurricane, or a Severe Cyclonic Storm in the West Pacific.
The states of Maharashtra and Gujarat, and the Union Territories of Dadra and Nagar Haveli, and Daman and Diu along India’s west coast are likely to be the most impacted by the storm. The biggest threat will come from intense rainfall that could lead to deadly flooding in and around Mumbai and surrounding areas of Maharashtra and Gujarat.
Evacuating coronavirus patients
As Maharashtra struggles to contain the virus, about 1,000 patients with suspected Covid-19 were evacuated from a field hospital on Tuesday and taken to other facilities.
The Maharashtra government has set up several “jumbo facilities” to act as isolation centers for suspected coronavirus cases. “The sheds can easily withstand the rain but it is the wind speed that I am worried about and I don’t want to endanger anyone,” Uddhav Thackeray, the chief minister of the state said in an address on Tuesday.
The field hospital in Bandra Kurla Complex in Mumbai has capacity for over 1,000 patients, all of whom are being shifted to other hospitals, he added.
Ahead of landfall, India’s National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) deployed 20 teams in Maharashtra, 16 teams in Gujarat, and two teams in other nearby areas.
Thousands of people living in flimsy or makeshift homes along the low-lying coast have been evacuated, according to a statement from the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs.
More than 50,000 people living along the coast of southern Gujarat have been evacuated, Harshad Patel, Gujarat’s Relief Commissioner said. In Mumbai, the state authorities along with NDRF have evacuated more than 60,000 people from coastal districts, according to Kishor Raje Nimbalkar, Relief Commissioner of Maharashtra.
The IMD is expecting major damage to thatched houses and huts, as well as to power and communication lines.
Mumbai’s civic body, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said 35 schools are being used as temporary evacuation shelters for citizens.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has urged residents in affected areas to take all possible precautions.
“Took stock of the situation in the wake of cyclone conditions in parts of India’s western coast. Praying for everyone’s well-being. I urge people to take all possible precautions and safety measures,” Modi said in a tweet on Tuesday.
CNN’s Brandon Miller contributed to reporting.