Mumbai bracing for the ‘first cyclone in 129 years’

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“The sea was brought into the city by the wind; the waves roared fearfully; the tops of the churches were blown off and the immense stones were driven to vast distances; two thousand persons were killed.”

This was how a Portuguese historian described one of the earliest recorded powerful storms in Mumbai in May 1618. In the 17th and 19th Century, the western Indian city was hit by deadly storms and cyclones. Mumbai experienced severe floods in 2005, and more recently in 2017 and 2019, but none of them were due to cyclones.

The heaving city of 20 million people, which is India’s financial and entertainment capital, has been spared of cyclones in modern history. Mumbai hasn’t “experienced a serious cyclone landfall since 1891”, Adam Sobel, a professor of atmospheric science at Columbia University, told me.

All that could change on Wednesday when a severe cyclonic storm with wind speeds from 100 to 120 kmph (60 to 75 mph) could hit the city and India’s western coast. India’s meteorological department is predicting heavy rainfall, squally winds, very rough seas and storm surges inundating low lying areas of the city. It is monitoring whether it will be as intense as Cyclone Amphan which devastated parts of West Bengal and took more than 90 lives last fortnight.

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