Mumbai bracing for the 'first cyclone in 129 years'

  • 2 June 2020
  • From the section India
2019 rains and storm in Mumbai Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mumbai usually experiences heavy monsoon rains

"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.

On Monday evening, Prof Sobel, who has researched Mumbai's cyclone preparedness, told me that the latest track of what is likely to be named Cyclone Nisarga "takes it right over Mumbai as a severe cyclonic storm with maximum wind speeds of 110 kmph". In the US system, he says, this would be "a strong tropical storm, not quite a hurricane". (Tropical storms in North Atlantic Ocean and Northeast Pacific are called hurricanes.)

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India coronavirus: Trouble ahead for India's fight against infections

  • 28 May 2020
  • From the section India
Coronavirus in India Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption India has more than 150,000 reported infections

On the face of it, things may not look bad.

Since the first case of coronavirus at the end of January, India has reported more than 150,000 Covid-19 infections. More than 4,000 people have died of the infection.

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India combats locust attack amid Covid-19 pandemic

  • 26 May 2020
  • From the section India
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Media captionLocust swarms destroy crops across India

An invasion by desert locusts has hit large swathes of India and Pakistan in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

Large and aggressive swarms of these crop-devouring short-horned insects have invaded more than two dozen districts covering more than 50,000 hectares of desert areas of western India. Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat are the worst affected states.

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India parents make pandemic road trip to get to stranded infant

  • 25 May 2020
  • From the section India
India girl baby Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Some 1,500 babies are born to surrogate mothers in India every year

The first-time parents were driving through India's winding, empty highways to see their newborn child.

It was the middle of April, and the country was in the throes of the world's harshest lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Almost everything was shut.

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Mumbai: India hospital delivers 100 babies from Covid-19 mums

  • 21 May 2020
  • From the section India
sion hospital surgery
Image caption Doctors have been wearing protective gear in the delivery room

More than 100 healthy babies have been born to mothers infected with the novel coronavirus in one hospital in India's western city of Mumbai.

Three of the 115 babies born to infected mothers at the Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General Hospital in the past month initially tested positive for Covid-19, but subsequent tests cleared them, doctors said.

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Amphan: Why Bay of Bengal is the world's hotbed of tropical cyclones

  • 19 May 2020
  • From the section India
bay of Bengal Image copyright Getty Images

The Bay of Bengal, notes historian Sunil Amrith, is an "expanse of tropical water: still and blue in the calm of January winter, or raging and turbid at the peak of the summer rains".

The largest bay in the world - 500 million people live on the coastal rim that surrounds it - is also the site of the majority of the deadliest tropical cyclones in world history.

Read full article Amphan: Why Bay of Bengal is the world's hotbed of tropical cyclones

Dark truth behind India's post-lockdown liquor lines

  • 14 May 2020
  • From the section India
India liquor consumer after shops opened Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption India is the second largest consumer of liquor in the world

When some Indian cities eased the grinding lockdown last week to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, long queues were seen outside liquor shops across the country.

In cities like Mumbai, a Covid-19 hotspot, booze-loving people made a mockery of social distancing rules, prompting the government to shut the shops again. Police baton charged unruly buyers. There was social media chatter over a 52,000 rupees ($690; £560) receipt of a single alcohol buyer in Bangalore.

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Coronavirus lockdown: The freed prisoner who is unable to return home

  • 11 May 2020
  • From the section India
India prisoners released in UP Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption More than 20,000 inmates have been freed to decongest the prisons

When Arif (name changed) was released from a prison in western India on 31 March, he longed to return home quickly.

But over the next fortnight, he was hounded out three times in two cities - from his own home and then that of a fellow inmate - before landing up in a shelter for the homeless. He fled, tried to return home again, and is now quarantined in a friend's house.

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Coronavirus: How Covid-19 is ravaging India's newsrooms

  • 4 May 2020
  • From the section India
India photographer Image copyright AFP
Image caption Camerapersons and TV journalists are among the most affected

Last fortnight, a camera operator working in the studio of a news network in the western city of Mumbai joined some of his colleagues to test for the novel coronavirus which was sweeping the city.

Days after, the 35-year-old man tested positive. He had developed no symptoms at all.

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India coronavirus: The 'mystery' of low Covid-19 death rates

  • 28 April 2020
  • From the section India
coronavirus victim burial in India Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption More than 800 people have died of Covid-19 in India

The global media reports are a mixture of relief and bafflement.

They talk about the "mystery behind India's lower death rates" from the Covid-19 infection, and say that India is "bucking the coronavirus trend". One talks about the "Indian exception as death rates in major Indian cities are lower compared to global coronavirus hotspots".

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