The cyclone Vardah ripped through Chennai and adjoining districts of north Tamil Nadu and south Andhra Pradesh at wind speeds of up to 90 kph on Monday, paralysing life and leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.
Ten people were killed, the National Disaster Management Authority said, and scores injured as the cyclone landfall made its way through large swathes of southern India. The authorities were yet to gauge the property losses incurred.
At 3pm, Chennai and its surrounding areas recorded wind speeds of 110 to 120 kph accompanied by heavy rainfall. Though there was a lull in the evening, the Met office advised citizens to remain indoors because the cyclone could give rise to wind speeds of up to 90 kph on its way out.
Vardah was expected to weaken later in the day, before moving on to Andhra Pradesh.
Seven teams of the National Disaster Response Force, along with six army columns and a number of state disaster response personnel, were pressed into service to provide relief to affected people.
Chennai residents woke up on Monday to a drizzle that soon turned into a downpour accompanied by high-velocity winds that uprooted trees, electric poles, advertisement hoardings and – at some places – parapet walls of buildings. Around 260 trees and 37 electricity poles were uprooted in Chennai alone.
Power minister Thangamani said though electricity supply at many parts was disrupted by the cyclonic storm, it would be completely restored by Tuesday morning. Over 16,000 people were moved to more than 400 relief centres and cyclone shelters across Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.
Read | 10 updates on Cyclone Vardah
Transportation in Chennai and surrounding districts was affected after train and air services were halted in view of the extreme weather conditions. While flight take-offs and landings at the Chennai airport had to be put off, authorities suspended suburban railway services and diverted long-distance trains to other routes.
S Balachandran, director of the India Meteorological Department’s regional cyclone warning centre, said the size of the cyclone was estimated at 700km – with the eye of the storm measuring 15km in diameter.
The state capital witnessed nearly 15 cm rainfall, the Met office said, adding that heavy to very heavy precipitation was expected in Chennai, Kancheepuram, Tiruvallur and Vellore districts over the next 36 hours. “The cyclone crossed the coast near Chennai Port Trust and weakened into a depression. But winds blowing at 70 kph continue will continue,” an official said.
The cyclone also wreaked havoc in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, especially Nellore and Chittoor districts. High velocity winds of up to 110 kph blew away the roofs of thousands of huts, and uprooted trees as well as electric poles.
An oil tanker overturned at Sullurpet on Nellore-Chennai national highway no 16, causing a huge spillage that disrupted the traffic for a long time.
According to reports, heavy rains ranging from 3 cm to 10 cm lashed several parts of Nellore and Chittoor district. Pilgrim flow to the Tirumala temple was impacted, with water flooding its premises.
The Andhra Pradesh government put the state official machinery on high alert to tackle any adverse situation – including power outage – arising from the cyclone. All flights from Hyderabad to Chennai and Tirupati were postponed in view of the weather phenomenon. The South Central Railway also cancelled some Chennai-bound trains and diverted others.
Also read | Live updates on Cyclone Vardah