Cyclone Nisarga: Doctors advise caution after thousands are evacuated

Updated: Jun 03, 2020, 08:39 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon | Mumbai

Say close proximity of people could risk spread of COVID-19, as well as of other viral infections

Raigad Collector Nidhi Choudhari speaks to villagers on Tuesday during her visit to Alibaug
Raigad Collector Nidhi Choudhari speaks to villagers on Tuesday during her visit to Alibaug

As Cyclone Nisarga is expected to hit land at Alibaug on Wednesday afternoon, the Raigad district administration on Tuesday moved nearly 5,000 people living in the close proximity of the shore to safer places. Until late Tuesday night, Raigad Collector Nidhi Choudhari monitored the preparedness around the coastal areas, especially in Alibaug city and other areas under the zilla parishad, which would witness the fury of the cyclonic storm in the afternoon.

She added, "More than 19,000 living in kachha houses across the coast lines in Raigad district, including the 5,000 in Alibaug, have been shifted to safer areas, adequate measures were taken to avoid losses to human life and property. Apart from local police, fire brigade, a national disaster team have also been called in."

According to the Raigad district disaster management, the high tide on Wednesday would begin at 9.47 am, with tidal waves of almost 3.90 meters high (12.80 feet).

"We have been making arrangements since receiving cyclone alert from the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD). Earlier, the cyclone was forecast to make landfall at Shrivardhan-Harihareshwar coastal line in Raigad district, but its position changed the IMD informed us that it would now hit Alibaug. Since morning, we have been making adequate preparedness in and around Alibaug. It rained throughout Tuesday afternoon, but we still managed to move people and cattle to safer places," said Choudhari.

Raigad District Disaster Management Officer Sagar Phatak told mid-day, "The district has four major coast lines — Uran, Alibaug, Murud-Janjira and Shrivardhan — spread in about 240-km stretch, with close to 1.73 lakh people residing around the coast lines. Majority of them are fishermen who have all been called back and all fishing activity has been suspended since June 1. Nearly 5,668 fishing boats have been anchored."

85 CCCs converted
Some of the 85 COVID Care Centres were converted into shelters for those evacuated in the wake of the cyclone, which triggered panic among the locals. "We have been told that the COVID asymptomatic patients have been asked to either go back home for self isolation or stay at the back end of the same shelter, so that the entire place can be sanitised for evacuated people," said a local.

However, Choudhari said no COVID-19 patients were kept in the CCCs that have been turned into cyclone shelters. "We had shortlisted some places as CCC in the district in case there is need for more centres, but no patients were ever brought here. All patients were kept Panvel and Alibaug city quarantine centres only."

Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) is also bracing for the cyclone and have taken measures to mitigate its impact on the property and ships in the sea. A JNPT spokesperson said, "All berthed vessels were out of JNPT by 11 pm on Tuesday. All inward moment of vessels were suspended till easing of the weather. All dredging related crafts were shifted to sheltered waters in Mora/Belapur creek/high seas." "All terminals have been advised to secure their cargo gear and other related equipment and ensure compliance of heavy weather contingency plan," he added.

More NDRF teams flown in
Anupam Srivastava, commandant, NDRF (West Zone), Pune, told mid-day that around 11 pm on Tuesday, five additional National Disaster Response Force teams, each comprising 35 men, were airlifted from Visakhapatnam and are brought in to assist the existing 15 teams deployed in and around the coastal areas of Mumbai, Palghar, Alibaug, etc.

"We have deployed three teams in Mumbai, two in Palghar, four in Raigad, two each in Thane and Ratnagiri, and one each in Sindudurg and Navi Mumbai for rescue and relief operation," said Srivastava.

"Unlike our routine monsoon flood recue training and practice, we have a new challenge this time and that is to maintain safety and ensure maximum protection to the team, who will be carrying out such rescue operation during the pandemic of COVID-19, outbreak. We have provided special PPE-type plastic one-pair coats that would protect the staff, and have also provided each of them with their safety kits, which include hand santisier, mask, soap, detergent, sodium hypochlorite etc," said the commandant.

Experts' medical advise
Dr Wiqar Shaikh, a senior allergy and asthma specialist, said that there is a need to be cautious now because there could be asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19 among the people shifted to shelters. Asymptomatic people could still transmit the disease. "We would like to caution the district administration to keep the evacuees away from COVID-19 affected people."

"Cyclone 'Nisarga' will bring in plenty of downpours that could result in the other viral infections like, influenza, dengue, malaria, typhoid, chikungunya, leptospirosis, jaundice and possibly cholera, etc. The district administrations need to be extremely alert about the onset of these ailments. The health administration will also have to be on their toes to tackle not only COVID-19, but all the other ailments, which Nisarga might bring," he said.

Alibaug tides today

. High Tide at 9.47 am: 12.80 ft (3.90 m)
. High Tide at 9.29 pm: 12.50 ft (3.81 m)


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