Gusty winds and heavy rainfall lashed parts of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh on Monday, with ‘very severe’ Cyclone Vardah making landfall in the afternoon. TV visuals showed uprooted trees, even as land and air transport was thrown off gear amid reports of casualties.
Four people were killed after heavy rains accompanied by high-velocity winds pounded Chennai and coastal districts of north Tamil Nadu due to the severe cyclonic storm.
Initially, state principal secretary (revenue administration) K Satyagopal said “human loss is two”, but did not elaborate. The NDMA later revised the death toll to four - two in Chennai, one in Kancheepuram and one in Nagapattinam.
In a statement, Satyagopal said 260 trees and 37 electric poles had fallen and 190 tress removed. As many 224 roads were blocked and 24 huts damaged.
“The wind speed near Chennai 90-100 kmph. Heavy rains and storm surge is expected. Landfall process has commenced at 2pm,” said M Mohapatra, the additional director general (services) of IMD.
Life off track
Power supply was suspended in many parts of the affected regions as a precautionary measure. About 8,000 people from low-lying areas in north Chennai, Pazhaverkadu in Tiruvallur district and villages off Mamallapuram, in Kanchipuram district, were safely evacuated to 95 relief shelters, officials said.
Flight operations at the airport were suspended till 5pm. Around 500 passengers remained in the domestic terminal.
Long-distance buses were stalled and traffic came to a grinding halt in most areas with uprooted trees and electric poles blocking the roads.
All suburban train services were also suspended. Southern Railway announced the cancellation of all 17 trains originating from Chennai central, as well as Egmore. A tree fell on a car at Ekkatuthangal near Metro Railway Station.
The Met department predicted rainfall over south coastal Andhra Pradesh, north coastal Tamil Nadu and Puducherry over the next 36 hours (till Wednesday). The rainfall intensity would increase gradually, becoming heavy to very heavy rainfall (7-19 cm) at a few places.
The weather department warned of squally winds reaching 50-60 kmph along and off Andhra Pradesh and adjoining north Tamil Nadu coast.
The tidal wave of about one metre height above the astronomical tide was likely to inundate the low-lying areas of Chennai, Thiruvallur and Kanchipuram districts of Tamil Nadu and Nellore in Andhra Pradesh during the landfall.
Union science and technology minister Harshvardhan said people have to remain cautious over the next 24 to 36 hours.
“I am sure the people of Chennai and Tamil Nadu will show the nation the same courage with which they faced a similar calamity last year. Entire Congress party stands firmly by them,” Congress president Sonia Gandhi said in a statement.
Forces on alert, advisories
The army, navy, air force and the Coast Guard were geared up to lend a helping hand. Over 15 teams of the National Disaster Response Force were deployed in various coastal regions.
Naval ships Shivalik and Kadmatt sailed out from Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh early Monday morning to Chennai to augment relief efforts in the Tamil Nadu capital as part of ‘Operation Madad’, the Navy said.
The ships were carrying medical teams, divers, inflatable rubber boats, integral helicopter, and relief material that includes food, tents, clothes, medicines and blankets etc.
The government declared a holiday for all government, government-aided private schools, colleges and other educational institutions in Chennai, Kanchipuram and Thiruvallur districts.
The Tamil Nadu government also advised private sector organisations to allow their workers to avail a holiday or work from home.
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