Heavy rains lash Chennai as Tamil Nadu braces for Cyclone Nivar tomorrow
A day before Cyclone Nivar is expected to make landfall on the eastern coast of Tamil Nadu, heavy rains lashed several parts of the state, including Chennai, accompanied with strong winds and high tides on Tuesday even as the state government announced a public holiday on Wednesday.
The cyclone is expected to make landfall between Mamallapuram and Karaikal on November 25 late evening with a wind speed of upto 120 kmph, according to the Indian Meteorological Department. Extremely high rainfall has been forecast in coastal regions including Chennai, Cuddlaore, Pudukottai, Nagapattinam, and Villupuram.
With 43,409 first responders, a dozen rescue teams and rescue personnel including the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and the coast guard have been deployed. “We have made our moves to prepare for the cyclone. We have to leave it to nature now and respond,” said Phanindra Reddy, principal secretary and commissioner, state’s disaster management and mitigation department.
Though Tamil Nadu has learnt lessons from its previous cyclones--- Gaja in 2018 and Vardah in 2016 to prepare for the heavy rain and wind, this year the state faces an additional challenge of the Covid-19 pandemic. This time, the cyclone relief centers have been doubled to 8,813 to accommodate the same number of people 2.5 lakh to ensure social distancing.
“We didn’t want the relief camps to end up becoming super spreaders,” Reddy said, adding that people will be screened for Covid-19 symptoms at the camps. Till Tuesday evening, less than 1,000 people had moved there but authorities are expecting a bigger crowd tomorrow when the cyclone approaches the coast.
Chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami announced a public holiday on Wednesday urging people to remain indoors. Essential services will continue to operate. “We have taken all precautions so that people aren’t affected due to Cyclone Nivar. There is no need to panic,” he said, after inspecting an emergency control room in Chennai. Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Palaniswami and V Narayanaswamy, CM of Puducherry, on Tuesday assuring them of assistance from the Centre.
In Chennai, the officials asked people not to panic as water levels rose in the Chembarambakkam reservoir and additional water was released into the Adyar River. Overflow from Chembarambakkam had caused the 2015 devastating Chennai floods. “The situation is under control,” said Greater Chennai Corporation commissioner, G Prakash. The city has opened 80 relief camps with another 80 on stand-by. Civic workers in Chennai were pressed into clearing water-logged roads as the city received heavy rain from Monday night.
However, authorities were more concerned of the impact of winds which would uproot trees and blow away tin sheets and roofs which could be fatal for people if they stay outdoors. District administrations are running control rooms with emergency numbers for the public to call.
The coast guard has stationed 15 disaster management teams and two helicopters are on standby. Four off-shore patrol vehicles will be available to assist fishermen and in Chennai there are five flood relief teams and one diving team. Southern railways cancelled 24 trains, including trains connecting Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. Suburban train services have also been suspended from Wednesday until further orders.
The Puducherry administration has opened a 24x7 control room coordinating with various teams and has set up 96 relief camps.
“When there is a need they will be moved, we don’t want to unnecessarily create a hotspot,” said Puducherry collector T Arun, who was confident with their mitigation efforts. “Last week we received 72 mm rainfall and it didn’t cause any havoc,” said Arun.
“Our only concern is people venturing out which is why we have prohibited movement and we have asked families to stock up on essentials. Puducherry also has a lot of trees which we have been pruning for the past two weeks so they are not uprooted. Authorities have also removed precarious banners and hoardings.”
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