Cyclone Nisarga: No calm after the storm for Lonavala-Khandala

Updated: Jun 09, 2020, 07:16 IST | Hemal Ashar | Mumbai

Cyclone Nisarga devastates Mumbai's favourite monsoon picnic destination; residents struggle with power outage, water scarcity and tree falls; claim they have never seen a storm like this one

A bent electricity pole and snapped wires lying on the ground in Alibaug
A bent electricity pole and snapped wires lying on the ground in Alibaug

One of the city's favourite weekend destinations — Lonavala-Khandala — have been out of bounds for months because of movement restrictions first and now because it has been badly hit by Cyclone Nisarga. In Raigad, five days later, nearly 1,500 villages are still living in darkness, some with no food or roof over their heads. Even simple drinking water is not available in many parts of the district.

Lonavala residents say that while Alibaug and Raigad got all the attention and people spoke about how Mumbai was spared, nobody is speaking about Lonavala-Khandala which is grappling with tremendous destruction after the cyclone. Locals claim that they had never seen a storm like this one.

A fallen tree
A fallen tree

Komal Bir Singh, originally from Mumbai, moved to Lonavala 17 years ago. "We are devastated. Hundreds of trees have been uprooted. Electric poles have fallen. No electricity means no water, because water pumps do not work. Some of us have generators, but most people have been badly affected," she said.

"The wind velocity was unimaginable, it literally scythed through this place, its wail escalating into a howl and destroying everything in its path," locals said. Komal Bir who lives in Tungali added, "The world outside sees a postcard Lonavala in the monsoon. We suffer every season with power outages and water problems. We have been told we will get underground wiring for years now, but that has never been completed."

Rashida and Eefa Shroff say the wind was so ferocious it uprooted 100-year-old trees
Rashida and Eefa Shroff say the wind was so ferocious it uprooted 100-year-old trees

Life disrupted
Fergus Misquitta, 77, said that six days after the storm, he is still clearing the garden with help from his foster son Mangesh Surve. The former Mumbaikar, who lives at Valvan in Gharkul Society, says he has lost Birds of Paradise trees. "They were so beautiful with the flowers, looking like a parrot's beak. The cyclone after-effect has seen prices shoot up too," Surve added.

Rashida Shroff, 75, who lives at Ryewood, Lonavala and is the president of the Lonavala-Khandala Citizens Forum, said, "The wind was ferocious, it uprooted massive 100-year-old trees. Some trees fell on overhead wires. I am still at a friend's home. She is in her 90s, we are sitting in candlelight, as the electricity still has to be restored." Eefa, Rashida's daughter who lives in Mumbai and has been with her mother since lockdown said, "We see boys who are working through the day, clambered on to the electric poles. Residents here pay high taxes so it is time this place is not treated like the backwaters of the boondocks. As there is no electricity, there is no cash in several ATMs. Labour called to clear trees have to be paid in cash."

Fergus Misquitta and his foster son Mangesh Surve are still cleaning their garden six days later
Fergus Misquitta and his foster son Mangesh Surve are still cleaning their garden six days later

Horizontal trees
Timmy Khandhari, who lives in Khandala, just 100m from the landmark Fariyas hotel, said, "I have lived here for 44 years and never witnessed anything like this. The wind made the tops of the trees horizontal. There was no electricity."

Umesh Chavan, additional executive engineer, Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (MSEDCL) said, "Lonavala-Khandala was in the eye of Cyclone Nisarga. We have up to 190 electricity poles that have fallen across the region. The main aim is to restore electricity across, as seniors are suffering with water supply. The cyclone arrived on June 3, the next day we were surveying the damage, the materials had to be called for."

He added, "Trees have been uprooted everywhere and fallen on wires. We have great help and good coordination from the municipality, clearing the roads. I have four teams of seven persons each working on the electric poles. It is tough going, but some parts have got back their electricity, and soon we will restore all."

Six
No. of days since locals have been without power

190
No. of electricity poles that have fallen in the region

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