Cyclone spares India's business capital from major damage

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NASA

This Tuesday, June 2, 2020, satellite image released by NASA shows Cyclone Nisarga roaring toward the western coast of India. The cyclone is forecast to make landfall Wednesday, June 3, 2020, afternoon on the country's west coast near Mumbai, a coastal city home to 18.4 million people and known for the Bollywood film industry. Mumbai hasn't been hit by a cyclone in more than a century, raising concern about its readiness. (NASA Worldview, Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS) via AP)

NEW DELHI – 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.

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

As Cyclone Nisarga crossed the central state of Maharashtra, live TV coverage showed inky black clouds framing the Arabian Sea, and trees swaying wildly as rain pounded coastal towns and villages.

In the state capital, Mumbai, home to Bollywood, India's largest stock exchange and more than 18 million residents, high winds whipped skyscrapers and ripped apart shanties near the beach.

About 10,000 city residents were evacuated from their homes, municipal officials said. With powerful storms a rarity, there were no preexisting 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 said.

Such storms are less common in the Arabian Sea than on India’s east coast, and usually form later in the year. But Nisarga may represent ways in which the warming of oceans due to climate change is already altering lives, experts said.

In the hours before the storm hit India's shores, drivers and peddlers deserted Mumbai's iconic Marine Drive, fishermen yanked their nets out of the wavy Arabian Sea and police shooed people away from beaches.