A cyclone racing in from the Arabian Sea has struck India’s west coast after intensifying on its approach to the densely populated city of Mumbai.
Cyclone Nisarga began making landfall about 100km (60 miles) south of Mumbai. Tens of thousands of people along the coast have been moved to higher ground.
It’s the first major cyclone in decades to threaten the financial capital.
With 20 million people, Mumbai is India’s most populous city and has been badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
The cyclone began making landfall at about 13:00 local time (07:30GMT), packing winds of more than 100km/h.
It hit the coast around Alibaug, a favourite weekend destination for many, and often touted as “the Hamptons” of Mumbai, the capital of Maharashtra state. Gujarat to the north is also in Nisarga’s path.
BBC Marathi’s Janhavee Moole says it has been raining since Tuesday and the skies are ominously dark in Mumbai.
“I can see the trees shaking violently. All beaches in the city are closed to the public and a police patrol van is making announcements, asking people to stay indoors. All safety precautions possible are being taken, but I do feel worried because the city is also in the grip of a pandemic,” our correspondent adds.
On Wednesday, the Indian Meteorological Department said the cyclone had intensified into a “severe cyclonic storm”. They later said the cyclone had speeded up, and was moving at around 13km/h.
With more than 40,000 confirmed virus cases, and almost 1,400 deaths, Mumbai is the city worst-affected by coronavirus in India.
The tens of thousands of people evacuated before the cyclone included 150 patients from a recently-built Covid-19 field hospital.
The local government said people living in flimsy homes near the shore were being moved. The coast guard said it had taken 109 fishermen in 18 boats to safety.
The government urged people to secure their homes, prepare an emergency kit, and keep documents and valuables in water-proof containers.
Unlike India’s eastern coast, cyclones are unusual on the country’s western shore. Nisarga comes barely two weeks after Cyclone Amphan struck, devastating parts of Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) on the east coast.
More than 100 people were killed in the Indian states of West Bengal and Orissa, as well as neighbouring Bangladesh.