Cyclone Tauktae wreaks havoc in Mumbai, Navy on rescue to Bombay High (Ld)

Cyclone Tauktae hit Mumbai with full fury bringing heavy rains, strong gales of over 75-85 kmph, which wreaked havoc by uprooting scores of trees, damaged some homes, and disrupted road traffic, though there were no human casualties, officials said on Monday.

In an alarming development, the Indian Navy has despatched two ships to rescue around 273 personnel of the Oil & Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) who are stranded on a drifting barge near the Bombay High Fields, around 175 km off Mumbai, in the direct path of the cyclone whirling towards Gujarat in the choppy Arabian Sea.

There are reports of at least two deaths — one of a youth in Navi Mumbai and another woman in a wallcrash in Raigad — but officials have not confirmed so far.

The IMD on Monday afternoon upgraded the warnings for Mumbai with ‘extremely heavy rainfall’ with gusty winds that will escalate upto 120 kmph, said an official.

Categorised now as ‘Extremely Severe Cyclonic Storm’, its effects were felt shortly after midnight of Sunday-Monday with many areas lashed by heavy rains, accompanied by lightning and thunder in some places, aggravated by powerful winds, as it whirled northwards from Sindhudurg-Ratnagiri towards Raigad-Mumbai en route to the Gujarat coast.

As a major precautionary measure, the state authorities have already shifted out 12,420 people from vulnerable spots along the coast Sindhudurg, Ratnagiri and Raigad, as per the directives of Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, who is keeping close tabs on the situation, an official said.

Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport which was shut for all operations from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., extended the shutdown till 4 p.m. owing to inclement weather conditions, even as 3 private airlines flights were diverted to less turbulent locations.

Till Monday noon, the city had recorded 79.4 mm rain, while the suburbs notched 44.6 mm, with the south Mumbai bearing the brunt of the downpour.

The pouring rains substantially cooled the weather at the height of mid-summer when Mumbai normally swelters with the mercury remaining in the upper-30s-to-mid-40s.

Several roads were littered as at least 30 big and small trees got uprooted in different parts of Mumbai and Thane, during the night, besides minor damage to several homes, major subways in Malad, Kandivali, Dahisar, Andheri and Santacruz were flooded and closed for traffic, while many lowlying areas were waterlogged.

There was considerable damage in the form of roofs of hutments getting blown away in Dahisar, the name hoarding of the St. Francis D’Assissi School & College – the site for many Bollywood film shootings in Borivali, breaking down, signals, electric poles, hoardings, banners, etc getting uprooted in different parts of the city.

The cyclone hovering around 160 km away from the Mumbai coast this morning, is likely to make a landfall in south Gujarat coast by midnight tonight, said the IMD’s latest warning bulletin.

It is accompanied by strong winds of 180-190 kmph, gusting to 210 kmph, which is expected to drop gradually over the next 48 hours into a depression with 40-60 kmph windspeeds by Wednesday morning.

The IMD has warned of winds of upto 120 kmph in Mumbai, besides gales in Raigad, Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg, Thane and Palghar during the day and people have been asked not to venture outdoors.

The combined effect of these have resulted in ‘Phenomenal’ waves in the frothy Arabian Sea with tidal waves to reach heights of upto 3 metres and the authorities have completely banned all fishing and other maritime activities for the next few days.